Trip to a small town

Lobby of the cemetery.
Lobby of the cemetery.

OUR DUTIES for the Day of the Dead continued on Monday. The third of November is when we drive to a small town down the mountainside to tidy up my child bride’s parents’ graves.

The two of them are not side by side. Mama died at age 31 in childbirth, and Papa remarried. When he died decades later, leaving a second wife who still lives today, he was buried elsewhere in the same graveyard. I imagine the second wife intends to rest at his side one day.

The three of them were born in this little town, and my wife lived there until age 3. That was when Mama died. With five children to care for, Papa remarried quite hastily. Then the restocked family moved to another small town, although larger, in the same state where he continued working as a physician.

I enjoy this annual trip to the graveyard. Though it’s only about a 30-minute drive down an autopista, you move from our cool, mountain world to a tropical, mountain world. The difference is dramatic. Leaving the autopista, we wind down a narrow road through lush greenery full of avocados, bananas and flowers.

Passing a convoy of heavily armed soldiers parked on the roadside, I give them a thumbs-up, but they ignore me. This is what is called La Tierra Caliente. It is where troubles concentrate.

It’s warm, balmy and sultry, reminding me of Puerto Rico where I lived long ago.

While my wife tended to the two tombstones — cleaning, thinking, remembering — I sat a spell on a stone bench in a covered area just inside the cemetery’s entrance. That’s where I took the top photo.

Mama’s spot.

Mama’s grave, being decades older than Papa’s, is in need of basic upkeep. The marble is sinking, and there are cracks. Every year, my wife says we need to do something, and she is correct.

But by the next day, many miles away, it’s slipped off our to-do list. We said the same thing on Monday. Must take action. Yet again.

By pure luck, a man who’s head honcho of the cemetery, the caretaker, happened to appear while I was sitting in the entrance lobby. My wife hailed him, and they spoke.

A Town Hall permit must be obtained, but that is easy, he said. He then made some suggestions for the renovations, which he can do.

It’s quite economical, absurdly so by U.S. standards, and we got his phone number. Perhaps this year will be different. Maybe on the third of November 2015, Mama will sport new digs. It would be nice.

That would not change the annual drive into this tropical world, however. Sometimes, after our graveyard duties are done, we sit in the town’s central plaza and eat ice cream, which tastes particularly sweet in the heat.

4 thoughts on “Trip to a small town

  1. I assume the room where you sat is similar to the anteroom at our local cemetery. The boxed remains of the deceased are allowed to rest in the room while the family says the rosary before admitting the body to its hole in the earth. Or, at least, that is how it is done in these parts. I find the transitional space to be quite peaceful.


    1. Señor Cotton: I don’t know what the lobby is for, but it was peaceful … and out of the sunshine. There is one item of interest: There was a sole tomb in there. It is visible, peeking into the lower right side of the photo.


    2. Death is treated differently here. I always thought “momento mori” was a medieval idea until I moved to Mexico where it is alive and well. “Remember that you (too) will die” puts life in perspective. I just returned from a visit to Guanajuato, and a tour of the Museo de Momias, where in every room a shattered mirror reflects your image, next to the mummies, to remind you that you, too, will die. (I actually thought I would die after the walk up the hill to the museum). I have spent a lot more time thinking about the dead here in Mexico than I ever did in the US.

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      1. Bonnie: Yes, mortality is closer to the surface here. As for the famous mummies of Guanajuato, it’s unfortunate that you just saw them. That whole museum has been gussied up and glassed in. I went there the first of my two visits in the 1980s. It was much more “in your face.” The corpses were not behind glass. It was a grim but fascinating experience.

        I went back again about 10 years ago, and saw the modern version. They should have left well enough alone. God knows what they’ve done since my last visit to tone it down.


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