One of my favorite things about Latin American culture is visiting the cemeteries. So far, I have been to two cemeteries: Cementerio Curepto and Cementerio General in Santiago. Both times I have been amazed by the amount of life I saw despite the fact that I was in a cemetery. Here, the character of death is colorful- I have seen tombstones in different blues, yellows, and pure whites. The graves are taken care of by tenants who work in the cemeteries and also by the relatives of the deceased. It was uncommon to see a grave without flowers, candles, toys, or notes around it and if that was the case, it usually meant that the family has moved farther away or they too, have passed.
Taken in Cementerio Curepto
Taken in Cementerio General
In the United States, I never would walk in the cemetery to pass the time. On a large scale, death in the United States is not something to be discussed. I would argue that Americans look at death on a myopic scale until it becomes relevant to the individual, whether that be losing a friend or family member or having a near death experience. In Chile, the cemetery is a communal place. A family could be visiting their deceased loved ones, a couple could be spending the afternoon together, or someone could be enjoying a long run or bike ride. It’s as if there is more faith in death here and in what comes next in the afterlife.
The Upper Class, Cementerio General
The Popular Class, Cementerio General
President Salvador Allende
Querido Allende // Dear Allende
Patio 29 is known as the burial place of the victims of the 1973 Chilean coup d-état and its military government under Augusto Pinochet. In the 70s, Patio 29 was used for unannounced, unmarked burials. The individuals buried here were victims of mutilation, torture and execution under the Pinochet military government. The graves on the field are lined with rusted iron cross headstones with a date and “NN” for “No Name”. Some of the iron crosses had printed photographs of loved ones who were assumed to have been buried in Patio 29. Los desaparecidos is a term used to describe the individuals who suddenly vanished. The United States doesn’t have a word as profound as los desaparecidos, but the best translation would be “the missing ones” or “the vanished ones”. I could write down my many thoughts about this haunting and peaceful place, but I would rather share the photographs I have taken:
“Patio 29, recuperación de un espacio público, que nos invita a reflexionar sobre el profundo respeto que debemos tener por la vida y a llenar de sentido el nunca más que todos y todas anhelamos.”