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October 6, 2020

Vintage Photographs of American Soldiers Posing With Human Skulls in Colon Cemetery in Havana From the Early 1900s

The Colon Cemetery was founded in 1876 in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana, Cuba to replace the Espada Cemetery in the Barrio de San Lázaro. Named for Christopher Columbus, the cemetery is noted for its many elaborately sculpted memorials.

In Colon Cemetery is the site of the celebrated ‘boneyard’. A single grave in the cemetery cost $10 in rent for five years. 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.

In the 1890s, American soldiers often removed skulls and bones and drove through the streets of Havana displaying them. Their commander, General Brooke ordered the practice to stop and gave instructions for the pit to be covered over.

These vintage photographs here show American soldiers stood on the thirty foot deep pile play around and holding up bones in the shape of the skull and crossbones. Some photographs were taken and sold commercially as souvenir postcards to send home to their loved ones. How times have changed!


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