The forgotten

church

The Day of the Dead descends in two weeks. Some sections of Mexico still embrace this old tradition, and I live in one of them.

The proximity on the calendar to Halloween is no coincidence, of course. Likewise, many holidays and traditions of the Christian faith are leftovers from more ancient myths.

The cemetery in the photo, I have heard, is the site of one of the more spectacular scenes hereabouts on the Night of the Dead.

There will be candles and marigolds and people galore. Survivors of the deceased sit all night at the gravesides to honor their relatives who have gone to that Big Cantina in the Sky.

I was in this village on an unrelated matter yesterday, so I walked through the graveyard. While the deceased are honored on the holiday night, it’s clear that nobody gives them a moment’s thought the rest of the year.

The cemetery is a dump.

17 thoughts on “The forgotten”

  1. WOW! Maybe dumpy cemeteries are just in certain parts of the country? I saw some very beautiful and well-attended ones in the Yucatán years ago. They were nothing like your picture and had beautiful little houses decorated with flowers, pictures and keepsakes of the deceased.

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    1. Cat: Yes, the upkeep can vary widely. The graveyard in my neighborhood is significantly nicer than the one in the photo. But even it is neglected most of the year. What sets ours apart is that there are full-blown gravestones and even sizable monuments. In this photo you see mostly metal crosses and little more amid the trash and abandonment.

      What I find interesting is that, unlike some cemetaries that are physically farther from churches, this one sits right at the church entrance. I assume the locals go through the Sunday Mass rituals, so they step over and through this junkyard every week.

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  2. The City has crews at work in at least 2 cemeteries here in Merida. They’ve been at it for about 2 weeks. Clearing out a year’s worth of plant overgrowth. This happens every year. The big clean sweep. Then the families get in and do their thing, repair, paint, place flowers and favored objects. On 31 October is the Paseo de las Animas, and the paseo starts at one of these cemeteries. It then passes a block over from my house, so at least that street gets all cleaned and spruced. It’s one of my favorite events of the year. I happen to live in an area of folks still following some of their traditional ways. Although the City has now become involved and turned into a big tourist attraction. Ni modo, I still go, and enjoy it immensely.

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    1. Debi: My town too gussies itself up for this event. We are a major-league tourist destination, one of the nation’s biggies. While on one end I do like it, due to the huge tourist influx it can be a real traffic pain for a few days.

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  3. Our own Halloween is taking over from medieval customs like the Day of the Dead. Stores are full of bright orange plastic jack o lanterns and candy sales are up. Cemeteries are not near as profitable here. The commercialization of Halloween is big business, giving another boost to obesity and poor dental health.

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    1. Andres: When I first moved here I used to grump about the increasing influence of Halloween. Now I just shrug it off. If the locals want to stupidly embrace Gringo customs, power to ’em. They get what they deserve. Pity.

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    2. However, I don’t blame Halloween even a little bit for our obesity and dental problems. We do that to ourselves with Coke, cream, cheese, candy and the lack of a tradition of regular dental care.

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  4. The older cemetery here has lovely headstones, shrines, the little buildings (unsure if they are actually mausoleums or not), etc. Some are maintained, most are not. The majority of the year it is full of tall grass, weeds, trash, etc. Around this time of year the city and the families begin cleaning it up for the special days. Then again it goes into its “sleep” for another year.

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  5. As you know, I was up your way for last year’s performance. http://steveinmexico.blogspot.mx/2012/11/dead-reckoning.html The cemeteries reminded me of a large stage. During the day, the stage hands were building the sets and placing the props. At night, with the lighting properly balanced, the play could commence. It was hard to imagine the bare stage. I can now say that I have seen it. Another of life’s little rituals that gave me one more opportunity to talk about death.

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  6. Why is there such a fascination with death? I once wore a skeleton costume for Halloween. As a child I just thought it was to scare people. Maybe that’s true. I prefer to focus on life and extend it as long as I can. I don’t like scary movies either.

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  7. Well, I think it’s better to care for your dead once a year rather than never, which seems to be the tradition in many cemeteries NOB.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we’ve had a lifelong fascination with cemeteries, but don’t want to take up permanent residence quite yet.

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