on July 14, 2011
A cemetery is not normally a place you would visit on holiday, but the cemetery in Key West is an exception to this rule. It is not at all gloomy, but is a quirky and humorous place and a must-see. The cemetery is set in 19 acres. People of all races and backgrounds are buried here - everybody from mariners, Cuban cigar makers, Spanish American war veterans, milllionaires to paupers. Slaves, ill from their voyage to slavery in "the New World" were also buried here prior to the Civil War. In total 100,000 people are buried in this cemetery.It is open from 7am to 7pm. They have guided tours which last 60 minutes. You are also free to (as we did) wander around on your own. Pick up a free self-guided map from the office at the entrance, otherwise it is difficult to locate the most interesting graves.Burial customs reflect the combinations of African, Hispanic, Anglo and other mixed heritage. Most burials are in above ground tombs due to the water table.Headstones are often actually quite humorous, and reflect residents' light hearted attitudes towards life and death. "I told you I was sick," is one of the most famous epitaphs. The tongue in cheek widow's inscription "At least I know where he's sleeping tonight," also makes me smile.The main gates open at the first corner of Margaret and Angela Streets. The black archway with the letters B'nail Zion marks the Jewish Cemetery entry. There are separate areas for Catholics, Jews and refugees from Cuba.There is an interesting memorial to the USS Maine. It commemorates the 1898 sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana Harbour. It is surrounded by an ornate wrought iron fence, painted in silver. Look out for the plot of General Abraham Lincoln Sawyer - he was only 40 inches tall, but his final wish was to be buried in a man-sized tomb.We also found the grave of Joe Russell, the founder of Sloppy Joe's bar - complete with lots of beads and an empty bottle of tequila on the grave.
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