LIKE EVERY YEAR, we went to the downtown cemetery this morning to tidy up the grave of my child bride’s oldest brother, gone about 25 years now.
The graveyard is directly downtown and — due to crowded conditions, I imagine — is not open the previous night, the famous Night of the Dead when relatives sit till dawn amid marigolds and candles. The graves are so tightly packed there’s no room for both relatives and tourists too.
But it’s open in the morning, and locals flood inside to gussy up the graves, light candles and incense, and leave their best wishes with the interred in broad daylight. That’s what we do. And there are no tourists because they’re recuperating after staying up all night visiting outlying villages and their splashy graveyards.
Ironically, though our town is one of the most well-known in Mexico for its Day of the Dead doings, neither of the two downtown cemeteries are open on the night of November 1. You must head out of town if you want to see the stuff that makes us famous. To places with names like Tzintzuntzan, Ihuatzio, Arocutin and my personal favorite, Cucuchucho, which sounds like a passing train.
But let’s return to our downtown graveyard.
Invariably, I am the only Gringo among the hundreds of people.
Another item of interest: Planted two plots down from my brother-in-law is a fellow — young, I imagine — who came out on the wrong end of a gunfight with cops three years ago. Here is what I remember. There was a shootout between police and some narcos in late October of 2011. It was written up in the local press.
Four days later, we were in the cemetery on our annual visit, and I noticed the fresh grave nearby, someone named Luis Enrique but his nickname was Choco. It was a plain metal marker painted black. It included his name, the date of his demise — that same late October day — and an automatic rifle was painted on there too.
Today I noticed the original metal marker still stood, but directly next to it was a nice marble headstone, also engraved with Luis Enrique’s full name, his nickname Choco — and the machine gun too.
On finishing our work, we packed up our gear — broom, dustpan, brush, trash bag, etc. — and headed to the main plaza for a nice cafecito. A couple of hours later, we dined on chicken meatballs, rice and beans.
A year from now we’ll do pretty much the same thing, the Goddess willing.
I’m no spring chicken.