Here’s what a small-town Mexican cemetery looks like

banner coahuila

When I visited Felip’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.

chapel interior

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:


More scenes from the cemetery in Villa Union, Coahuila:

cemetery flowers

cemetery scenes

grave sites






Have you ever been to a cemetery in another country?


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About the Author

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based journalist and blogger who seeks out offbeat attractions and awesome destinations around the world. He has been featured in Travel + Leisure, Connect Magazine, Matador Travel, and the Washington Post.

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  1. I’m always quite intrigued to see what cemeteries are like in places I visit. Grass is certainly common in cemeteries in my home country (the UK), but I’ve noticed that’s not always the case, and I think it may be more of a stylistic/cultural thing rather than just a climate thing. For example, I’ve seen grassless cemeteries in Austria and France, neither of which are extremely hot. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these photos remind me of cemeteries I’ve seen here in South America, though I’ve not yet seen any dirt mounds!

  2. This is by far the prettiest cemetary I’ve ever seen. There’s just something that lifts the mood with all the bright flowers and colour. Maybe I’m just used to driving past grey graveyards in pouring Scottish rain…

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