Question: I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. My great grandfather is buried on the Isle of Youth where, in the early 20th century, he bought a pineapple farm until he died and was buried locally. He might be buried in the American Cemetery in Nueva Gerona and I’m looking for a picture of his headstone. Can you find me someone on the isle who could research this for me?
Answer: From the late 19th century until the 1950s, Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) experienced a steadily growing U.S. presence. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Midwestern farmers arrived, established small communities and planted the first citrus groves. Other settlers arrived from other English-speaking locations. The legacy of that early U.S. presence can still be seen in existing bungalow-style houses and in Cementerio Colombia (locally known as Cementerio Americano but the same cemetery), located about 12 km east of Nueva Gerona and which has the graves of Americans who lived and died on the island during the 1920s and 1930s. There are also English-language place names, documents and even magazines in English, as reported by local history.
The city of Nueva Gerona, which now has a second cemetery that is the one most commonly used today, has a Funeraria (Funeral Home) – the only one in the city – which was very helpful in trying to find a lead for your request. In a phone consultation with the administrator of this Funeraria, Jacquelina Gutiérrez García, she indicated that she herself would be prepared to track down the grave of your great grandfather and to take a photo for you. She says that the cemetery, for its historic values, is well looked after.
Unfortunately, the Funeraria does not have email, but she can be reached by phone and, once you enter into an agreement, she would most likely be able to arrange a local email link through which the two of you can communicate. She does not speak English, so if you do not speak Spanish yourself, be sure you have a Spanish-speaker who can help you. Below is the contact information for the Funeraria.
Funeraria de Nueva Gerona, Isla de la Juventud
Administrator: Jacquelina Gutiérrez García
Telephone (53-46) 322201
The information that Jacquelina needs is the following:
- Name and surname of your great grandfather.
- Approximate date of death (and if you have the exact date, that’s even better)
- Name and surname of the individual requesting the information and photo
- Your email address.
Once Jacquelina has the above information, she would be able to look up the necessary information in the local registries, and would then go out to the cemetery to find the grave.
Note: As the Cementerio Americano is located a distance outside the city of Nueva Gerona, there would be some transport costs for Jacquelina (or any other person) to get there. Although she didn’t mention this herself, it is a reality of Cuba and you should be prepared to cover such costs as well as possible costs for email communication on the Cuban end.