Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Eternal Gardens: Hoctún, Yucatan

This November second I drove to the Yucatan from Quintana Roo looking for observances of Dia de los Muertos.  I headed to Izamal, the site of the famed  Franciscan monastery of San Antonio de Padua which in colonial times had been "the Vatican of the Yucatan".   That day nothing much was going on in Izamal because,  as someone explained,  November 3 is the big celebration there due to the fact that during the usual Dias de los Muertos (November 1-2), everyone  makes the hour-long trip to Merida, the Yucatan's capital, where celebrations are typically elaborate.

Having previously read that the cemetery in nearby Hoctún, a town whose roots go back to 1722 is unique, I drove the 23.3 kilometers anticipating graves festooned with flowers and perhaps food, as is typical throughout Mexico during this holiday. I did not find these, but did find something very different and very beautiful. The cemetery dates back to the mid-19th century.

(Please note that all photos will enlarge when clicked)

Entrance to Cemetery, Hoctún, Yucatan

Cemetery, Hoctún, Yucatan
Cemetery, Hoctún Yucatan

Cemetery, Hoctún, Yucatan

Grave Painters, Hoctún Yucatan

In the Hoctún cemetery flowers are painted on the graves themselves and the paintings are done by a group of professional artists in the community.  One explained to me that a family will send them to the cemetery with specific instructions on what they want painted on a family member's tomb. This happens throughout the year and not only on Dia de los Muertos and their working on that day had nothing specific to do with the holiday.  

Some of the tombs are small

and some large enough to contain the remains of an entire family

But all are beautiful and suffused with spirituality of the place

Tombstone, Hoctún Yucatan
The translation of the tombstone is roughly this:  
"Daddy you are in a a very special place where you can look after us from the beautiful blue sky, many times we feel you around us and know that you didn't die only are just sleeping and wake with God always alive in our hearts."

Hoctún, Yucatan

Hoctún, Yucatan

Hoctún, Yucatan
In Hoctún the main Dia de los Muertos celebration is the Mass that takes place in the cemetery at 5 p.m.  At this time when dusk is settling-in, I am sure that it is a candle-lit and moving observance of the Dia de los Muertos.

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