My wife and I like to wander around in cemeteries. How people treat the dead interests us, and there is often quite interesting stylistic architecture to be found in tombs and crypts. We especially like the ones in cultures that display old photos of the dead in portrait frames on the tombstone or on the crypt. We have wandered the major cemeteries in every city where we’ve lived and every city we have visited for longer than a couple of days.
During our recent visit to the foreboding town of Punta Arenas at the bottom of Chile, we spent an hour or so at the cemetery there. There were three things in particular that interested us. First, there are two main entrance doors; one is permanently sealed and the other next to it was built after the original door was sealed. It was sealed after the body of a woman named Sara Braun was carried through the original doors. What we don’t know is why. Obviously Sara Braun was an important person in Punta Arenas history. Second, the manner of sealing crypts with a glass window and filling the space with memorabilia important in the person’s life, as well as often photos, and death data; in some cases, a clock frozen at the hour of death. Third, the grave and statue of a Patagonia indigenous native — a story in itself, that I will offer below that photo.
Here follows a short photographic sampling from the Punta Arenas city cemetery. (Click on any photo to enlarge to full size.)
We were told that some years ago, in modern times, the Indian seen in this statue, simply appeared one day walking across the central city park. He stopped in the park, sat down, and died. He was naked (trust me, it’s damn cold down there) and apparently one of the indigenous people who predated European settlers to Patagonia, who were believed to have died out entirely almost a hundred years before. Nothing at all was known about the man and not another indigenous native has ever been found. He was buried here and this accurate representation of him sculpted. Traditionally, it became good luck to leave something for the Indian, and to offer thanks for good fortune at this grave. Those are all the plaques you see on the walls, and the items hanging from the statue.
This, and some of the photos to follow, is of the display case built into the head of a crypt. There is a one hundred meter long, ten foot high wall of these crypts; the body lies within this long, narrow box. The photo below shows an empty crypt to illustrate the idea of how narrow they are. When I suggested to the local person with us that I would not fit in a crypt like that, he showed us larger ones further along the wall for people of a more robust nature.
That children become fatally and painfully ill and die before enjoying any of the loves and pleasures we have known is utter and absolute and final and inarguable proof there is no god.
The clock shows the “fatal hour” in the photo below.
A pretty young woman with representations of things she loved.
As seen below, not everyone has the money for a glass display box and brass inscriptions. These are the most touching.
Finally, an example of a typical grave, note the photos of its occupants. Most of these graves were covered with well-tended flowers, and even the plastic flowers were kept bright and clean. Do all wonder who will care for us and sustain our memory after we have returned to that nothingness that existed before our birth and brief trek through living days?
Have a nice day.