Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rest in Peace

Day of the Dead is just a few days away. I like to start looking at the cemetery before it is filled with flowers. This morning as I walked down the road approaching the cemetery there were a lot of old cars parked and many people standing around waiting. I wondered if maybe they were waiting for a funeral procession to arrive but while I was there no funeral procession entered the cemetery. When I left there was a man with a clipboard surrounded by people, some young men with tape I guess that somehow spaces are being assigned or bought for the booths of flowers and food vendors that will line both sides of the street. I've wondered how that happened. Seems like there could be a few fights if there wasn't some method.

There were some men painting the outside walls of the cemetery. Sloppiest paint job I've ever seen. For months the street will be dotted with bright blue splotches about three feet out from the wall. And inside the cemetery there were already some painters repainting tombstones, Jesuses (Is there a pural for Jesus?), and Angels. One Jesus had a fresh coat of metallic gold hair and beard. I've never understood why painters seem to think Jesus had light brown or blonde hair but metallic gold hair I really don't understand. There were a few flower arrangements already in place on the large family plots. Also a few families cleaning up around the graves. But you could feel the anticipation of what was about to happen.

While I was there I talked with two photographers. I knew they were serious photographers because they had big tripods, the latest digital cameras and some expensive lenses on those cameras. Oh, and also both of them were packing two cameras, one on the tripod and another over their shoulder. I told them that on November 1, the cemetary would close at sundown. They were surprised. They had assumed that they would be able to take photographs like the ones they have seen where there are many candles and people stay all night at the cemetery. They were the second group of photographers I've met in the last week who had come to San Miguel de Allende to get THE Day of the Dead photograph. What happens here in San Miguel is wonderful and colorful but people don't camp out all night at the cemetery.

One of the things that always facinates me no matter what time of the year I go to the cemetery are the crypts that fill several walls that divide the cemetery into sections. Each individual crypt is decorated as the family sees fit and according to what they can afford. I always feel like I'm looking at folk art as I walk past stacks of crypts on the wall. I wonder what happened when the person died young, or who are the hijos who are waiting for a mother, did she die of a broken heart.

I'll probably be at the cemetery every day for the next few days just to see it blossom.


Steve Cotton said...

Great update. I need to figure out the procedure around here.

Sam and Bob said...


Bob and I love that cemetary. We walk thru there several times during our stay. It is very interesting to see the part of the cemetary that is designated for US citizens.

We have also witnessed a funeral. I can't remember how many mariachi's were in the band but it was perhaps 13.

Anyway, please take lots of pictures. We would love to see them.

DanaJ said...

Walking with you in this post.
Thanks for exercise.


Todd said...

Here in Patzcuaro there are vigils in the cemetary for 2 days. Patzcuaro is VERY big on day of the dead.


Billie said...

Todd, last year I was in Patzcuaro and stayed on the go for the two days going to many of the vigils. It was a most amazing experience.

Bob and Sam, Like you I like to walk through it from time to time.

Dana, keep on walking because I'll be going back.

Steve, Sometimes it is hard to figure out what is going to happen. I hope you get to see some of the home altars. They are so touching.

Babs said...

Billie - I've not been to the big Panteon. I always head to San Juan de dios - it speaks to me more. As I was walking in town yesterday morning I felt the sense of anticipation too. And last night I realized that the visitors are arriving......tour buses everywhere.

It is a huge disappointment to me that the activities in the cemeteries here are in the daytime. The cloak of night in Patzcauro and surounding areas adds so much to the mysticism of the reverence.

Billie said...

Babs, I like the San Juan de Dios cemetery too and use to spend a lot of time in it since it was only open during Day of the Dead. But then the church ladies or Chamber of Commerce or Tourist Bureau started spiffing it up and decorating it. Of course the families still come but it just hasn't been the same for me in the last year or two. I just think it is such a shame that it was desecrated so much during some period. So many of the beautiful gravestones were toppled and broken.

If you have a chance walk down the road leading to the new cemetery on Nov 1. It is a treat for the eyes. All the flowers, the food vendors and the families. You'll love it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Billy,

The spaces for vendors in front of the Panteon are purchased. I know this because my Jovenes Adelante mentee's family runs a fruit cart...and they had to buy a space to be there. Probably first come first served.

As for Jesus being depicted as blonde....don't you think that lighter skin and lighter hair are usually interpreted as a sign of superiority? A friend who was in Vietnam told me that sometimes the SV soldiers would torment this tribe of darker skinned mountain people who lived nearby...even in the middle of war. It seems like darker skinned people get put down everywhere. So Jesus would have to blonde, wouldn't he? Or the ultimate metallic.

See you 'round,

Glenda Robinson

Billie said...

Glenda, a few weeks ago I posted about racism in Mexico and cited Felipe's blog where he wrote exactly the same thing you are saying that the darker the skin, the more difficult it is for the Mexican to get ahead.

Thanks for confirming what I thought must be happening about the spaces for flowers and vendors at the cemetery.

DanaJ said...

...Which is why I never had a problem with people stating
"Black is beautiful".
Seems obvious, but when all around, overtly And subconsciously, the opposite is being said, I understand clinching a fist in pride.

happy beautiful fall day from houston, tx, Billie.

Annie said...

Loved the "crypt art", too, Billie!