Somepeople have no idea about what THE INQUISITION WAS ABOUT  !!!!

Mummy taken from Panteon Municipal, Guanajuato.


MEXICAN CEMETERIES

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herever Hugues and I travel, we visit cemeteries. We are fascinated by how people of different cultures dispose of their dead. And also, we find most cemeteries esthetically pleasing--there are few remaining places on this planet that are both accessible and nearly devoid of living human beings. We appreciate the quiet and the beauty of graveyards, especially the older ones, and value the care that was taken in the past to honor the dead. Modern cemeteries with their row upon row of standarized gravestones--condos of the dead--do not appeal to us. But the older cemeteries composed of graceful crypts and stately mausoleums, filled with angels and effigies of the departed, and grave markers that bother to quote poetry, all of this fills us with a sense of tranquil wonder.

 



Tiled grave in Panteon Delores, Mexico City.

 

 

Panteon General at the Panteon metro station, Mexico City.

A metal 'cradle' over a grave at Panteon Delores, Mexico City.

 

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emeteries in Mexico range from the grand to the humble. We began in Mexico City, at the Panteon General and the Panteon Delores, both accessible via metro (subway), which we took. Lavish crypts abound, and colorful graves built up with white-washed cement, or covered by patterned tiles. The graves frequently have a little grotto in the headstone where candles, incense, statues or photographs are placed. One unusual aspect of the crypts at these cemeteries is the metallic 'cellar-door' on the ground that leads to the burial places--we hadn't seen this before.

 

 A cellar door leading to the graves below ground. Panteon General, Mexico City.

 

 Altar and drawers below ground through the door of the crypt. Panteon General, Mexico City.

 

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rypts usually have steps just inside the door heading down to the vaults--we could see through the glass altars below ground level, and the drawers that protect the coffins. Many of the altars are elaborate, and we found one like a dining table, set with linen and China, and decorated with a variety of skeleton figures.

 

 

A table of skeletons behind the doors of a crypt, Panteon General, Mexico City.

 

 

Protecting the entrance, Panteon Delores, Mexico City.

 

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e were lucky enough to witness a funeral. A trio of brass instruments played lively music around the open grave. A hundred mourners must have been present, some arriving by the green and white Volkeswagon beetle taxis that proliferate on the streets of the city, which waited for the end of the service. Besides the graves and crypts, we saw a number of angels and cherubs that seem unique to Mexico. There were a few metal coffins out in the open; some appeared to be awaiting interrment, others looked as if they had been dug up.

 

Panteon Municipal, Guanajuato. 

 

 Panteon Municipal, Guanajuato.

 

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n Gunanjuato, after visiting the Mummy Museum, we went to the adjacent Panteon Municipal , where the mummies originate. Each section of this crowded cemetery is separated by walls, and there are three levels, taking us as high as the roof of the building next door. A balance seems to have been struck between simple and elaborate rememberances of the dead, and the walls create a protective feeling. Dogs reside in this cemetery, which is unlike most other cemeteries around the world where cats are the usual residents.

 

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Panteon Mount Alban, colorful and densely packed.

 

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he final cemeteries we visited were in Oaxaca. Enroute to Mount Alban to see the Pre-Colombian archeological ruins, we stopped at a small panteon crowded with people tending the graves. Flowers were being planted and arranged--a typical grave had strewn red petals covering the mound of earth and marigold heads on top forming a cross. The people were very friendly and did not appear to feel invaded as we moved around respectfully--most of our photos exclude the people, again, out of respect. Off in a corner we could hear prayers being recited through a microphone. A Mariachi band moved to where they were beckoned and played a sad but lively tune for the departed, and those maintaining the humble crypts and graves of this little cemetery.



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Grave from Panteon Mount Alban, Oaxaca.

 

 

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he other cemetery we visited in Oaxaca was Panteon General. This is a large cemetery a ten minute drive off a main road. The first time we went to the cemetery we were astonished by the enormous carnival being set up along the road. Cars were lined up for a mile, and residents charged a few pesos for parking on their lots. Such a big cemetery always has some sections that are more interesting than others, usually the older parts. We wandered as families maintained the graves, and it's here we saw mats with people sleeping, and fires built beside the graves with cook pots that provided food during the long hours of work. Children ran around playing, eating sugar skulls and skeleton candies, dressed as skeletons, but we noticed many graves where the mother was arranging flowers and talking while the children listened to the stories of those gone before. The scent of flowers, and the fragrance of burned copal tree resin filled the air, large chunks burning in the mini altars in the headstone. We purchased a newsprint sheet of poems about the dead, with a heavy political bent. A large water truck was installed on the main path of the cemetery for the enormous numbers of people.

 

 

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e returned to the Panteon General that evening after dark, the last night of the Day of the Dead. Outside the gates, the carnival was in full swing. The cemetery, however, was not open all night--we didn't find one that was--but would close in one hour. We went to the areas where earlier we had found the more fascinating crypts and gravesites and photographed them at night, lit by candles. Prayers wafted through the air mingling with the scent of flower and copal incense. The cemetery was nearly devoid of living people, just a few stragglers doing last minute touch-ups. We have a couple of odd photos: although the graves are in focus, it's possible that somehow the camera moved--red light is streaking through the air, coming from the candles, or the altars. Or maybe the souls had finished their visit and we caught them returning to the land of the dead.

 

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Spirits departing for another year?

 

 


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