Monday, September 22, 2014

Report from Havana.

Tolomato Cemetery was open this weekend for our special Fence Fund kick-off…but more on that later.


We had an unexpected visit from a couple, Gladys and Lázaro Prieto (above), just back from Havana. They had visited us a few years ago, and had promised to bring back photos of Fr. Varela’s burial place the next time they visited family in Havana.  And they were as good as their word - here are the photos they brought us on this weekend.


Above is the grand entrance of the University of Havana, and below is a small courtyard at the university that features a beautiful marble bust and memorial plaque in honor of Fr. Varela.  He is wearing what is probably an academic gown of the early 19th century, when he was a brilliant teacher at San Carlos Seminary, which eventually became the University of Havana.

Varela Cuba1

The bust is quite large, as we can see from the photo below that shows the Prietos standing next to it and in front of the plaque.


Following is a close-up of the plaque.  A translation of the the Spanish text reads, “The youth to whom I once devoted my efforts keeps me in its memory and they tell me that the new generation is not indifferent to my name. Felix Varela.  TO THE PATRIOT, TIRELESS EDUCATOR, PRIEST AND FAMOUS PHILOSOPHER, SEED OF OUR NATIONALITY, FELIX VARELA Y MORALES, FROM THE CUBAN REVOLUTIONARY STUDENT YOUTH.”


Below is the Aula Magna, the Great Hall, where Fr. Varela’s remains are kept in an urn.  The Prietos tried to get into the hall, which is used as a formal reception area for welcoming dignitaries and holding official functions, but unfortunately they weren’t allowed in – this time, although they hope to have more success in the future.  But even these views of the Varela monument remind us of St Augustine’s close connections with Havana, and Fr. Varela’s position as a link between the two cities.  Many thanks to Gladys and Lázaro Prieto for bringing us these great photos!

Aula Cuba

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hate the Gate?

Now that the blazing heat of summer is over (we hope!), it’s time for some tranquil fall Open Days at Tolomato Cemetery.  But the kick-off for the fall season will be a little different this year.

Have you ever walked along Cordova Street and wondered why beautiful, serene Tolomato Cemetery is caged behind a chain link and barbed wire fence?  Have you ever thought how much you hate that sagging gate that prevents you from taking a photograph of the stately trees and classic chapel? That’s going to change!


About a year ago, architect Don Crichlow drew up plans for the restoration of the early 20th century concrete wall and complete replacement of the fence and gate that have surrounded Tolomato Cemetery since the 1940s. In between the labors of restoring the Varela Chapel crypt and floor, TCPA members spent time getting bids from fencing companies and considering design solutions.


The new fence plans are finally ready to be unveiled to the public, and our next Open Day, Saturday, September 20, will be the big day.  We’ll be open from 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., as usual, and of course, everything will be free, as usual.  But it’s going to be special!


Visitors can have our regular tours and a chance to see the restoration work that was done in the Varela Chapel, but we’ll also have live music, refreshments, a silk-screener producing special Tolomato items, and presentations on the fence and the history of the fences and walls at Tolomato Cemetery.  Naturally, the centerpiece will be the rendering of the new fence and gate, which we hope to complete by next summer.


As you can see from the late 19th century photo above, the fence has looked even worse at times.  But after all these years, we want it to finally be as lovely as the rest of the cemetery - and to be something that makes St Augustine even more beautiful!  Come on September 20th and see for yourself.