Day of the Dead, Part 2

Brother Carlos’ grave sits as clean as we could get it, flowered and ready for another year.

YESTERDAY WE did what we always do on November 2. We tossed supplies into a big bucket — bleach, incense, lighter, broom, dustpan, trash bag, candles, plant clippers, etc. — and we headed to the downtown cemetery.

Due to the graves’ being shoulder to shoulder, the traditional Day of the Dead overnight vigils are not held in that cemetery. There simply is not enough room, so families go the next day to clean the tombs and leave flowers.

Outside the cemetery gates, you’ll find vendors selling flowers at inflated prices and painted coffee cans to fill with water and use as vases. You also hire boys, young men and even girls to help scrub the headstones while family members stand nearby and observe.

This year we encountered something quite disturbing. Two tombs to the left, bodies had been removed. In so doing, a metal fence that had surrounded those graves had been tossed willy-nilly atop the abutting grave and the following one, which was ours, brother Carlos who died at age 26 over 30 years ago.

We had not yet hired the helpers to scrub our grave, so my child bride headed out to find two young men, not kids. We needed someone strong enough to move the fencing, and that is what happened. Two young men with dyed blond hair muscled it back atop the empty graves.

I neglected to snap photos until after the fence had been manhandled back to where it came from. Here is where it came from:

It’s quite tacky to empty a grave and toss its fence atop the neighbors’ resting places.

Those empty holes go down about 10 feet, so having the fence around them is a good idea, especially if folks are stumbling about in the dead of night.

I remember who had been buried there before, a narco family. One of the homemade markers had an automatic rifle hand-painted on it. You don’t do that if you’re honest, church-going people. I wonder where they were moved to.

Today we continue our Day of the Dead duties. We’ll drive about 40 minutes southwest to the cemetery in the small town where my child bride spent her earliest years. Buried there are her mother and father.

Mother died at age 31 giving birth to her fifth and final child. Father died many years later at 61 of a heart attack. We’ll tidy up their stones, leave flowers, and go have lunch. Maybe some enchiladas.

8 thoughts on “Day of the Dead, Part 2

  1. Traditions and memories are how we pay our respects. My father was buried in the Virgin Islands, where he died on a sailing cruise. My brother is distributed between my sister’s back yard and my mother’s apartment. The only grave I know of is that of my maternal grandmother, where the ashes of two uncles and an aunt were sneakily buried over time, as it is illegal to bury more than one person in a plot. We’re a devious lot, we Canucks.


    1. Kris: Yes, I have long noted the deviousness of Canadians. It’s a dreadful thing to witness, and all the while with the mask of such nice people. Must have something to do with maple syrup. I’m sure that’s it. The Mounties are straightforward, however. Gotta give them that.


    2. Kris PS: Interesting that your father is in the Virgin Islands. People usually get shipped home, do they not? But it would be a nice place to end up, I suppose. My father, cremated, is spread in three places. Outside a window in his favorite vacation motel in North Georgia, over a cliff at a Unitarian Retreat Center in North Carolina and, lastly, in the desert of the Big Bend National Park in Texas. Ironic for a man who loathed travel.


    1. Leisa: Those holes were extremely deep. I wrote 10 feet deep, but thinking on it more, it likely is even deeper. Grid-planned. I very much doubt it. I doubt pre-purchased either. We do things much more haphazardly down here, not really so organized as the Gringos.


    2. PS: We ended up not going to visit her parents graves today. Instead we passed by the other cemetery here in town and left flowers on a nephew’s tomb. He died last February of cancer, just 32 years old.


  2. I enjoyed both posts. I think it is nice that your wife’s culture remembers the dead. Not so much here in a “Christian” nation. We pay people to maintain our ancestor’s graves. I think that speaks volumes regarding at least one comment on your previous post.


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