True story or legend?
At Necropolis Cristobal Colon, Havana's 'City of the Dead', lies the grave of La Milagrosa, a turn-of-the-century woman who died during childbirth, was mourned by a heartbroken husband and is revered by Cubans as their unofficial saint.
La Milagrosa, Spanish for "The Miraculous One,'' was in life one Amelia Goyri de Adot, who died May 3, 1901, while giving birth to a son. The infant, who also died, was buried in the same coffin as his mother, lying at her feet.
According to the legend often told among those who visit her grave at the massive cemetery, situated just blocks from the Plaza of the Revolution, her husband, Eduardo Adot y Lopez, was so grief-stricken that he would come and visit as many as three times a day. He would leave flowers and knock against the cement burial vault with one of the four brass rings attached to the lid, as if to let her know he was there.
As he left, he would always back away from her grave, so as to gaze on it for as long as possible.
According to the legend, Amelia was exhumed some years after her burial and her body was discovered to be uncorrupted, a sign Roman Catholics have traditionally interpreted as being evidence of sanctity. Moreover, the baby that had been laid at her feet was nestled in her arms.
Her husband commissioned a marble statue of his beloved Amelia, leaning against a cross and holding the infant that died with her. Eventually, as her legend spread, the lone visitor to Amelia's grave was joined by a steady stream of pilgrims who saw her as someone who could intercede for them before a distant and unapproachable God.
Cubans come to this grave to ask "La Milagrosa" to hopefully make their wishes come true.
Custom and tradition says that one is to ...
- Knock on the grave …
Say your name and your wish …
Lay down the flowers or a gift …
Walk away backwards away from the grave and don't turn your back.