I wanted a good night’s sleep but, unfortunately, a dissonant choir of roosters and dogs accompanied by trucks playing a recording on loop had something against it. You might be familiar with them if you’ve been to Mexico before. It was my last day in Orizaba and there was one last thing I still had to do: visit the local cemetery.
The first thing I did was to go out to the terrace to see if the fog had cleared. It hadn’t. I figured the best course of action would be to wait for the fog to recede, because as of that moment visibility was pretty much zero, and part of the reason why I was so interested in visiting the cemetery was that it’s surrounded by towering mountains.
The municipal cemetery of Orizaba was established in 1897 and contains over 45,000 burials. 35 of those gravestones are protected monuments. I wasn’t planning to look for them but rather just wanted to go for a stroll, get a better idea of Mexican burial customs, and hopefully get a few good pictures with the mountains in the background.
The cemetery was almost empty by the time I got there. I was accompanied by my dad, who is not particularly interested in taphotourism, but he was a sport about tagging along.
It was a windy morning, still a bit overcast but rays of sun did manage to poke through the clouds from time to time. A concert of birds echoed through the cemetery.
The planning of the cemetery was rather standard: the mausoleums from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were closest to the entrance. Then came the newer burials. As opposed to other cemeteries I’ve visited in Mexico, a lot of graves featured an open bible made of stone. Also, burials ranged from dirt mounds with rusting metal crosses to little houses, which attests to the different socio-economic backgrounds of the people buried there.
The atmosphere at the cemetery was very particular and had an almost Lovecraftian air to it, which was only broken by the occasional caretaker speeding by on a rickety bicycle. Some of the older gravestones were crumbling, others were overgrown. The wind carried the song of the birds through rows of crosses, making palm trees sway to its melody. The fog floated steadily above the mountains and made the place seem frozen in time.
The cemetery itself is over one hundred years old, but the site had been used before for ceremonial purposes. The element that made the place feel like something out of a Lovecraft novel was the Piedra del Gigante, a giant volcanic slab engraved with symbols and figures documenting the alleged sacrifice of a 5-metre giant. The stone itself is dated back to the year 1300.
At some point a crow flew by and stood on top of a cross for a brief moment. I ran behind it, and luckily managed to get a picture of it before it flew away. Since I figured I wasn’t going to get a better shot than that during that session and it was almost time to check out at my rental apartment, I packed my camera and left the cemetery.
Do you ever visit cemeteries when you travel? Which is the most impressive you’ve seen? Share it with the community!
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