In Camajuaní, like in almost all towns in Cuba, after the immense sign with the cement letters that announce the name of the municipality, the while walls of the cemetery appear and, further on, the narrow string of houses that line both sides of the Central Highway.
However, in this town some 25 kilometres from Santa Clara, alongside the typical scenery a Jewish cemetery should be added to the description, one of the first of its kind that has existed in centre of the country since the second decade of the 20th.
A score of tombs battered by the years stick out of the ground as evidence of the Jewish presence in the region. The dates inscribed into the marble show that this site was used for barely a decade. Only the vegetation is determined to encroach on the area.
According to the president of the Jewish community in Villa Clara, David Tacher, in this land of valleys and carnivals there was also a small synagogue where Jews from nearby towns also congregated. Around 300 of them formed the established community here in the first half of the twentieth century.
Few people know the real history of this site and those who lie here. Many even call it the “Turkish cemetery”. That’s explained by the presence in Cuba of Sephardic Jews originating from Turkey, the north of Africa and other regions where they took refuge when they were expelled from Spain during the time of the Inquisition.
For the Jewish community guaranteeing its continuity is central. That’s why these small settlements generally comprised a synagogue for religious services, a school to educate their children, and a cemetery to give the members of the community a burial in accordance with Hebrew rituals.