Fidel’s final resting place, santa ifigenia: Raul Castro receives his brother’s ashes encased in a cedar box and places them in a large granite boulder in Santiago after nine days of public mourning
- Fidel Castro’s ashes were interred Sunday at 7 am inside Santiago De Cuba’s Santa Ifigenia cemetery
- His ashes were encased in a large granite boulder with a dark plaque engraved with the word ‘Fidel’
- Cuban military fired a 21-gun salute and crowds at the entrance to the ceremony sang the national anthem
- Castro’s remains were buried out of the public eye after nine days of near-adulation for the revolutionary
- Raul said his brother ‘rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality’ and asked for no named tributes
Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro’s ashes were encased in a large granite boulder on Sunday in a ceremony that capped nine days of public mourning and aimed to literally set in stone the legacy of one of the 20th century’s most influential characters.
Cutting a solitary figure in his four star general’s uniform, Cuban President Raul Castro placed a cedar box containing his brother’s cremated remains in a niche in the rock at the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in southeastern Cuba.
A dark plaque engraved with the word ‘Fidel’ was then fixed over the niche. Raul Castro saluted the rock, which was flanked by two honor guards in white uniform, and a 21-gun salute echoed out.
Fidel Castro toppled a US-backed strongman in a 1959 revolution and went on to build a Communist state a short distance from the Florida coast, surviving the collapse of the Soviet Union and relentless US efforts to force him out.
His monument at the cemetery in the city of Santiago de Cuba sits a few steps from the mausoleum of independence hero Jose Marti, another towering figure of Cuban history with whom Castro shared a mistrust of the US.
Castro’s naturalistic memorial is dwarfed by Marti’s mausoleum and other elaborate edifices at the cemetery.
The stone is also a few steps from a monument to rebels who died in an attack on the Moncada military barracks in Santiago at the start of the revolution.
Since Castro’s death on November 25 at age 90, hundreds of thousands of Cubans have lined streets and plazas to bid farewell to ‘El Comandante’ (The Commander), with a combination of tears, vows to sustain socialism and choruses of ‘I am Fidel!’
By contrast, the ceremony on Sunday was a private event and not broadcast on state media.
A few photos and eyewitness accounts on state media described a small group of guests including Castro’s wife Dalia Soto del Valle and Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, who was a friend of the Cuban leader.
A clutch of left-wing allies were also present, such as Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who like Castro survived the Cold War.
Later, members of the public were allowed to lay flowers at the memorial in small groups of ten.
‘I wanted to give him one last goodbye, although he will always be present in my heart,’ said Angela Rodriguez, 62, one of the first people allowed to view the boulder.
The ashes left the Plaza Of The Revolution in the eastern city of Santiago at 6.39am, more than 20 minutes ahead of their scheduled departure. Thousands of people lined the two-mile route to Santa Ifigenia cemetery, waving Cuban flags and shouting ‘Long live Fidel!’
The funeral caravan entered the cemetery at 7.12am. The Cuban military fired a 21-gun salute and crowds at the entrance to the ceremony sang the national anthem, then filled the road to the cemetery where the ashes were being interred inside, out of the public eye.
Martial music could be heard during the ceremony from outside the cemetery, where mourners gathered.
Mourner Ines de la Rosa said she would have liked to watch the ceremony on television, but ‘we understand how they as a family also need a bit of privacy’.
Read more: Daily Mail