Cuba: ‘In Manzanillo Those Who Died From COVID-19 Were Buried in Mass Graves, up to 200 in a Single Day’

The San Francisco cemetery was too small and they had to expand it. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Matos, Manzanillo (Granma Province), 2 February 2024 — In the San Francisco cemetery complex, fifteen minutes by car from the municipal necropolis of Manzanillo (Granma), up to 200 dead were buried in a single day in mass graves during the worst time of the pandemic. Mobilized by order of the authorities, the gravediggers were unable to cope and had a clear instruction: three hours after death they had to remove the body.

The mounds, the large expanse of removed land and the precarious wooden crosses in the cemetery of San Francisco still attest to what happened in those days. “The cemetery was very small and they had to expand it. They had to prepare the area for the pandemic deaths,” one of the local employees explains to 14ymedio. “All the people buried there were from Manzanillo.”

“It was the hardest moment of my life,” says a former Manzanillo gravedigger, who remembers “as if it were yesterday” piling up the corpses. The situation was extreme. “In Manzanillo there was not, nor is there now, space for so many deaths,” he explains; hence, the leaders transferred several gravediggers to the rural community of San Francisco to take care of the mass burials. “I had been at work for many years and I hadn’t seen anything like it. A lot of people died.”

La tierra removida y las cruces de madera dan fe de lo que se vivió en la pandemia. (14ymedio)
The removed earth and wooden crosses attest to what was experienced during the pandemic. (14ymedio)

Carmen, a health worker who lost her mother a few days after she gave her “a bad cold” remembers how sudden the process was. “In the hospital they gave her the rapid test and then the PCR, and she tested positive. They took her up to a room, and I couldn’t accompany her. They would only give me information about her on the phone. I was desperate.”

The phone stopped ringing for several days, and Carmen, taking advantage of her contacts, moved heaven and earth to know what was happening with her mother. “I found out that she had been dead for three days and was buried in San Francisco. I wanted to die; they had deceived us, making us believe that she was alive. I never knew the exact place she was buried, and I was so traumatized that I prefer to remember my mother alive. I’ve never been to San Francisco to see her again.”

“I never knew the exact place where she was buried, and I was so traumatized that I prefer to remember my mother alive. I have never been to San Francisco to see her again”

Returning to “normality” since the pandemic was not easy, the former gravedigger says. The cemetery of Manzanillo – his former place of work – where several heroes and mambises of the stature of Bartolomé Masó and Francis

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