This is the infamous ‘boneyard’ in Colon Cemetery in Havana, Cuba, circa 1989. The picture is one of the photos taken and sent back home as a souvenir, showing American soldiers on top of the thirty foot deep pile pile of human remians. It seems pretty gruesome at first look, but it was actually a matter of space. With more than 800,000 graves and 1 million interments, there just wasn’t room for everyone to get their own grave.
A single grave in the cemetery cost $10 in rent for five years, or you could share a grave with two other people for $3 each. At the end of the five years, if the remains were not claimed, the bones were thrown into the boneyard [sometimes known as ‘bone pile] by the cemetery authorities.
Now the practice is, after three years, remains are removed from their tombs, boxed and placed in a storage building. The bone pile in the picture has been covered.
I find this fascinating. Not in a creepy, I want to get in touch with my gothic self kind of way. More that some people are horrified at the idea of a giant pile of bones. We all have such different reactions to death, how we remember people and what our culture finds an acceptable and/or respectful way of dealing with what we leave behind.
Some cultures have crypts, some built giant pyramids, some burn bodies in a majestic, fiery send off. These days, most of us (at least in Canada) are making the choice between burial or cremation. Though, you can turn your body into a diamond or be frozen in hopes of being revived later on. Heck, you can have your body donated to science! Maybe even become one of those skelletons in a classroom 😉
I had the talk with my husband, while we were buying our life insurance, about what he wanted done with his body once he, eventually, passes away. He’d never thought about it before! Didn’t really care one way or another. I know exactly what I want to happen to me: cremation, ashes scattered in water and a memorial bench in my name, somewhere with a great view.
Do you have a death plan? Does it matter to you where you end up? Or would you be just as content if you were added to the boneyard?