When I visited a friend’s family in Villa Union, Mexico (pop. 6000), I was taken to two local cemeteries. It was the Day of the Dead weekend, and many families were stopping by to honor their loved ones and leave flowers and other items of remembrance. I was encouraged to share some of these photos to reveal what a small-town Mexican cemetery looks like.
The first obvious thing I noticed was the lack of grass. American cemeteries tend to be impeccably landscaped, but in these hot, dry climates, it would be a big waste of water to try to grow grass here.
The lack of grass means there’s a lot of plain white and grey everywhere.
One upside to that is the fact that colorful flowers stand out even more in such an environment.
There were three different types of graves in the cemetery: The enclosed chapels, the more modest outdoor graves surrounded by a fences, and the bare-bones outdoor graves with no fences or headstones and only mounds of rocks to mark the burial spot. The three grave styles exist side by side.
Residents with a bit more money tend to build the individual chapels, which usually stay locked. Family members with keys can open the structures and leave flowers and photos inside.
Here’s a glimpse at what one of these chapels looks like on the inside.
The outdoor graves have a bit less privacy and are more like typical American gravesites.
At some of the graves, family members leave some of the deceased’s favorite items, like stuffed animals and Coke bottles. (This practice is very similar to the way fans interact with Andy Warhol’s grave in Pittsburgh.)
Families with dirt mound graves may not be able to spend as much to make the grave sites of their loved ones quite as pretty, but they are still placed with care.
This was an interesting sight: A dirt mound inside an open cathedral. Either the building was in the process of being finished, or perhaps someone ran out of money and was unable to finish the cathedral and decided to use the dirt mound method instead:
See more scenes from the Mexican cemetery in Villa Union, Coahuila below. It was fascinating to see these gravesites and the bright flowers. Every culture seems to deal with departed loved ones in their own unique way.
Have you ever been to a Mexican cemetery, or one in another country?