SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: In Cuba, ossuaries are a solution to funereal space problems.

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Roll the Bones … photo credit, Atlas Obscura.

An ossuary is a place for storing the bones of dead people.

Ossuaries — chambers for storing human bones — are commonly described as places to house skeletal remains when cemeteries were overcrowded and burial space was scarce. But to focus solely on the functional would be selling these grim houses of bones short.

Throughout ancient and medieval times and in the Catholic and Orthodox faiths, displaying and maintaining the bones of the deceased was a way to honor the dead.

I’ve visited ossuaries in Paris and Rome, and it’s an eerie experience. It’s unusual that we don’t have one in New Gahania. No one would ever think to check behind the bones for campaign finance treasure troves.

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that communism in Cuba has not been kind to funerals or final resting places. But the simple fact is that for the majority of the world’s population, the grave hasn’t ever been an eternal proposition.

If not uprooted to occupy a new communal home at an ossuary, one’s inadequately marked bones might be bulldozed for a strip mall or washed away from the seaside by climate change.

There’s nothing certain in life or death, and for that reason, we have Beer:Thirty.

Cuba’s funerals: cheap and especially uncheerful

Bidding a loved one farewell is more painful than it should be in the socialist state

 … Demand for funereal paraphernalia is rising because of Cuba’s ageing population. Of the 24 cemeteries in Havana, all of which were nationalised in 1963, 20 have run out of space. At the Colón graveyard the mausoleums of important pre-revolutionary families near the gates give way at the periphery to unmarked stone slabs. These cover vaults containing up to 24 coffins in which the newly deceased rest for two years. After that relatives must collect the bones to make room for fresh corpses. Many deposit the remains in a nearby ossuary, which houses 80,000 skeletons …

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