On how the toughest man among Cubans was buried

The smell of death was all over Eugenio Casimiro Rodríguez Carta. His lofty figure portrayed a weird desire to kill someone. In public he was always quiet, nicely dressed, but everyone knew he was a born thug, one that would draw his gun and shoot anyone just because he felt like doing it. Since young death chose him, took him in and offered him a job that most of the times involved a shot in the head.

Perfectly aware of the fact that he had been born to die, this handsome man from San Jose de las Lajas, lived the future next few hours would bring. However, his agitated existence as hired assassin took an unexpected turn by changing a certain death per a fortuitous love that would save him from that misfortune and would grant him a seat in the Conservative Party for three terms in a row. He was certainly lucky.

Though it may seem strange, the story of Eugenio Casimiro Rodríguez Carta, who called himself “the toughest man among Cubans”, started as a law enforcement official in his hometown and, with a wonderful résumé, was transferred to Cienfuegos where he became the chief of police.

It is unknown how he metamorphosed from a police officer to a criminal, but he gradually became more corrupt till growing into a hired assassin. During the first half of the 20th century in Cuba, this job was very profitable and Casimiro enjoyed it. Supported by his position as chief of police, the most notorious tough guy from San José de lasLajas became the favorite “bodyguard” of the interests by the elite in Cienfuegos until he was accused in 1918 of murdering the Major and was sentenced to death.

However, the sentence was not executed and was commuted to life imprisonment at the Principe Fortress in Havana. Good luck accompanied him to his penitentiary and one fine day, while sweeping the facilities, he met the major’s wife with whom he had a cautious affair between bars.

That “lovely damsel”, whose name was María Teresa Zayas, was the daughter of the president of the Republic, Alfredo Zayas. We cannot be certain if Casimiro knew that in advance or if it was just fate. The truth is that he continued with his job; it took just a love shot directly to the heart of the president to get out of jail. I repeat: he was certainly lucky.

Blinded by Casimiro’s kisses and caresses, Maria Teresa didn’t rest until achieving pardon for her beloved one and the approval of her distinguished father of the wedding of such a privileged couple.

Making the most of the influences of his father in law, this skillful thug started a political career with the Conservative Party, where he managed to assure a seat at the Chamber of Representatives for three legislative terms. He regained that legal immunity that had accompanied him once.

Despite the fact that among the capital elite he was known as Mr. Rodriguez Carta, Casimiro, unable to get rid of his criminal past, was linked to several homicides. Even though no one could ever prove them, the new murders fitted the modus operandi with which he had earned his fame at gunpoint.

Good fortune remained by the side of the now rich and powerful Casimiro. As time passed by he undertook the construction of a tomb worthy of his crimes, to preserve in stone his legacy for eternity.

Everything was fine until one day, Maria Teresa, the woman that had given him all his possessions, opened the door of her apartment at the America building and found him having the time of his life with a prostitute. It was such an impact that she collapsed onto the floor due to a heart attack.

Eugenio Casimiro Rodríguez Carta left this world shortly after his wife. He took to the grave his fame of a tough man, and in order to make his story last forever he decided to be buried standing (vertically) because as he used to say: “a man that came to life on his feet must get to hell the same way”.

Among the thousands of people buried within the 20 kilometers of interior streets in the cemetery, Eugenio Casimiro Rodríguez Carta is the only one who was buried standing and armed. At his request, he was buried in Colon’s Cemetery with the rifle that he used to kill the major in Cienfuegos and a 100 peso note on his pocket, as a proof of his fortunate existence.

The traces of this criminal remain in silence. His pulse faded along with the secrets he once hid. His felonies expired, abandoned his still body as soon as he walked into hell. There was no legacy, just sunsets for an allegorical tomb. All the sinister disappeared in time. The cruel oblivion shot in cold blood the inheritance of this tough guy to the extent it turned him into dust. Death is as implacable as he was; she decides who transcends and who doesn’t. It doesn’t matter he was the worst hire assassins of all, or that his name was Eugenio Casimiro or that he was buried standing with a riffle in hand.

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