I spent the morning in Todos Santos Cuchamatan photographing villagers as they visited the cemetary. They would light candles, set out food and alcohol, even have conversations with their deceased loved ones. I was in Oaxaca last year at the same time, and the cemetary traditions for “Dia de los Muertos” are similar.
It is kind of strange, I suppose, for your basic white-bread generic American like me. We tend to just plant our dead in some cold cemetary, pay someone else to tend the graves, and visit every blue moon. Our gravestones and mausoleums are uniformly gray or white. Austere. Colorless. Not here. These cemetaries ooze color. The paint is like frosting, with layers and layers of each year’s paint color boldly calling out for attention, for remembrance. Where our cemetaries are just dead, atmosphere-wise, the Guatemalan cemetaries just pop and crackle with life.
Pop and crackle is an appropriate description, as well, because as I wander through the cemetary, Guatemalans set off rockets from simple steel pipes that blast into the air and explode with a loud bang. Must be some kind of serious meaning to it, I suppose. Perhaps calling to the dead? I don’t know. But kids gather and giggle as these rockets go off, and the men setting them do seem to have a sly smile on their face.
I try to respectfully take photos in the cemetary, of men and women tending the graves, as well as men playing the marimba and dancing in colorful costumes. It is packed wall to wall with people by the time I leave to look for an overlook where I can see the whole cemetary. Gustavo and I drove to the other side of the valley and come across cute children and dogs and other scenes I can’t pass up. I finally find a good overlook and with a large lens, shoot a panoramic image of the cemetary composed of 6-16 megapixel images. It is pretty awesome, although it will not show up well in this blog. I will have it up on other parts of my site later.