Human remains found at Jagua Fortress will be studied

View of the chapel and an enlarged detail of the human remains preserved under the glazed tombstone (indicated by the arrow) in the portion of the floor where the finding occurred in 2013. / Photo: Ismary Barcia
View of the chapel and an enlarged detail of the human remains preserved under the glazed tombstone (indicated by the arrow) in the portion of the floor where the finding occurred in 2013. / Photo: Ismary Barcia

(RCM Redaction/by Ismary Barcia)

Human remains found in 2013, during the last restoration of the Cienfuegos´s fortress ¨Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Jagua¨, will be studied. The investigation will be among the first orders of the experts of the recently opened Archaeological Office, of the Office of Monuments and Historical Sites of the Provincial Heritage Center of Cienfuegos.


The master’s degree in Sciences Marisol Otero, director of the fortress located in the ultramarine town of Castillo, confirmed that the bone fragments exhibited at the discovery site, «will be the first to be examined, not only because of the knowledge need specialists have, but also because we are a museum and many visitors ask us who they belonged to, when they date, and until now we cannot answer them.”

 Treasure and legends

Popular legends of the Castillo town assure that after the attack of Havana by the Englishmen (August of 1762), there was saved in ¨Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Jagua¨ the wealth of prominent inhabitants of the capital.

The myth increased over the years. On February 5, 1899, when the American occupation was consummated, 25 men of the garrison left forever for the motherland: they joined the last Spanish troops to leave Cuba, after almost four centuries of colonization.

During the first twenty years in which the fortress was plunged into abandonment, looting took place. Locals and people from other parts desecrated the fort, trampling fools and fools in search of the supposed treasures hidden in the walled enclosure. All this did nothing but contribute to its deterioration.

So far, and in the absence of burial records, only the custom of Spanish settlers is known to bury members of the high hierarchy under the temple, considered the first parish cemetery in the former Jagua region.

Declared a National Monument on October 10, 1978, and converted into a museum almost two decades later, the defensive bastion had had four previous restorations.

It was during the fifth, which began in 2009 and lasted until 2014, when the bridge, walls, roofs, balconies, electrical installations, and a large part of the floor were rebuilt.

In each stage new vestiges appeared, but the most relevant of them happened in the chapel: the discovery of skeletal remains. Workers who lifted the paving stones, encountered a vertebra, and then particles of bones, teeth, even fragments of the fresco of the oratory.

But a detail called then the attention of workers and specialists: the human remains were devoid of clothes, buttons or coffers.

Archaeological tracks

In the years that followed during the 20th century, some shy attempts of rescue by some Cienfuegos´ heritage lovers stand out, but it was not until the adventurous eagerness of the local painter Wayacon – who claimed to have found some skeletons – attracted the attention of the researchers.

It assumes the charge of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba, the archaeologist Alfredo Francisco Rankin Santander, who when exploring the moats, began to unveil the secrets of the fortress.

To that excavation is attributed the most accurate reference to the skeletal remains, says Marisol Otero: «Rankin told me that during those searches, made by the 70s of the last century, he found evidence of a female burial – trousseau, a shoe and hair of woman-, who during a subsequent repair were dumped in a fragmented way and without classification under the floor of the chapel.

«We also want the Archaeological Office to study in depth all the archaeological findings of the fortress, now exposed, as well as the furniture, ashlar and stonework, which also has important marks worthy of study», announces the director of the museum.

(Translated by Yeney Perez Corona)

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