June 14, 2021

Cemeteries guarded by dolls and prohibiting death

Cemeteries guarded by dolls and prohibiting death


The cemeteries offer a strange mixture of green and earth; of life and death. They are costumbrismo, tradition. There are dozens of Raimundas jalbergando tombs in the tempest of the east wind of La Mancha. «Volver», by Pedro Almodóvar, made it possible for all those cosmopolitans who once spent All Saint's Day with their grandmothers, to prefer, if only for a tenth of a second, to sit in the brazier to eat donuts and saint's bones to disguise themselves for Halloween.

The calm that transmits the eternal rest, the legend of exciting lives and an addictive sensation of calm have revived the passion to know the intrigues that hide the graveyards. For walking between tombs does not have to be a funeral issue, but also a welcoming and philosophical one – especially if one stops to read the epitaphs. You can even know the history of their cities by looking at the tombstones of their most famous characters or the consideration that each culture, region or ethnic group gives to the Old Lady.

In Sapantza (Romania), for example, life is celebrated and not death: the crosses are made of hand-painted wood and have a colorful portrait accompanied by inscriptions. Suns, flags and leaves cover the more than 800 tombs that show that there are joyful ways to keep alive the memory of those who are no longer there. A position shared by the Norwegian city of Longyearbyen. There they reach 50 degrees below zero and for 70 years their cemeteries do not witness any burial. There are hotels, pubs, heated swimming pools, but nobody can die. It is completely prohibited. A law of 1950 forced to emigrate before moving on to the next life, because the bodies do not decompose due to the low temperatures. Thus, if an inhabitant is diagnosed with a terminal illness or fears for his life, he must leave home in search of a warmer morgue. In this land, what Camilo José Cela said that "death is sweet; but his anteroom, cruel »takes on a little more meaning.

For those who visit them, these spaces can help to remember historical figures such as Oscar Wilde or Francisco de Goya. Although this may seem macabre, many function as places of tourist pilgrimage: some for hosting the largest number of tombs in the world (Náyaf, Iraq) and others for hosting cypress trees cut in the style of Eduadro Manostijeras (Tulcán, Ecuador), but all for be surrounded by legends that further mythify their tradition. In Chile, the mining city of La Noria was one of the centers of abuse and slavery in the country. After the arrival of the synthetic nitrate in the 60s, its workers were forced to leave the place, leaving their houses and the tombs of their loved ones unattended. In fact, the first thing that catches the attention of visitors is finding a good part of their open coffins. The opposite of what happens in the Neptune Memorial Reef (Florida, United States), where the coffers appear sealed under the sea: they joined the remains of the deceased with cement to recreate the lost city of Atlantis.

For all, death only comes once, but is felt at all times of life. That is why many cultures have tried to admire it from different points of view. Some have chosen to suspend the coffins in front of a cliff (Sagada, Philippines) to prevent the animals from eating the bodies and others have placed 2,000 dolls without eyes and arms (Xochimilco, Mexico) to scare away the spirits. There are from Canada, Brazil, Holland, Great Britain or Holland and the oldest (and queen of the island) is Agustinita, 55, who shares little or nothing with the marginalized that today admits the Cross Bones cemetery (London) . Its name comes from the 19th century, when it closed due to saturation of the dead. With the passage of time it has been discovered that an important part of them were children

The Spanish case

Among niches kept in luxury suites (Singapore), dolls onlookers (Sulawesi, Indonesia) and abandoned trains (Uyuni, Bolivia) Teresa's cemetery appears. In a small corner of the Aran Valley, the most intimate grave of all the collections is erected. When this young woman fell in love with her cousin, Sisco, she became the great repudiated of the town. They all turned their backs on him. but they had children and lived happily, until he died prematurely because of pneumonia. That May 10, 1916, they wanted to bury it in the municipal cemetery, but the parish priest refused to "desecrate" holy land. Thus, in the absence of civil precincts in the graveyards, the dead "in sin" were reserved for a sad hole in the middle of the mountain. That same night, the neighbors decided to give dignity to their last home and built a small mausoleum in their honor in a remote area. Sisco and the children soon after went into exile in France. Today, her great-grandchildren remember her and continue to visit her.

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