Friday, November 04, 2011

Death: Like Life, But Without Oxygen

The death-obsessed Hamlet thought death was the great equalizer (Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay, Might stop a hole to keep the wind away), but here in death-obsessed Mexico, death changes nothing - inequality persists to the bitter end and beyond. Last month we wrote about the narco-mausoleums in Culiacán, some of which were as nice as any house we ever lived in. And in the previous few posts we shared a lot of pictures of the solidly middle-class queretano way of death.

But tucked away in a corner of the Panteon Municipal is a wall of tiny crypts about a foot and a half wide by three feet deep, the cost of which we aren't quite sure, but would be surprised if they exceeded the price of a comida corrida lunch. To call these crypts "modest" would be as understated as the crypts themselves Scroll down to the last photo, and then ask yourself, if this is where José Martinez dwells in death, what was his life like?

Happily, many of the little cryptlets were decorated with flowers, proof that someone cared enough to visit.  We weren't there long enough to know if anyone hired a mariachi band, but we like to imagine they did.

If we learned anything from our brand new and completely original discovery of Day of the Dead, it's that, unless we somehow go 100% native along with our extended family, we most certainly do not want to be buried in a cemetery. The way Mexicans flock to their gravesites (if only once a year) puts our unattended graves back home into pretty stark relief, and makes us feel kind of terrible. There are few human beings we've loved as much as our maternal grandmother, but after 29 years of not visiting her tomb, we couldn't even guess where she's buried. On the other side of the family, there's kind of a communal plot which we've been to three times since 1977, each time to add another relative to the site. We're not sure if anyone else is planning to be interred there, but if not, we're unlikely ever to go there again - which is no indication of our affection for the two grandparents and great-grandmother who are buried there.  It's just that, really, why would we go?

If you look back up at the top picture, you'll see that half the little crypts have been decorated. That means half have not. On the Day of the Dead, that's like not getting a valentine in school on Valentine's Day. For us, that would actually ruin being dead, which is something we imagine otherwise to be quite bearable, if not downright pleasant. We haven't worked out the details of an alternative yet, but at this point we're thinking Viking funeral.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What mattered to your family was the quality of time you spent with them while they were alive. And I do mean quality, not quantity.

And, sure, you pick a hot way to go and threaten me with an ice flow! Knowing how much I hate the cold!

Beautiful pictures on all these DotD posts!

M