Spending a Night at the Cemetery

In a previous entry I posted about my experience spending a night at the Great Wall (See: Spending a Night at the Great Wall); today, being Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico, I’ll share with you a couple of pictures of that night I slept at the cemetery in 2010.

As many of you may know, in Mexico we have many important traditions, one of them is el Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which is every year on November 2. I won’t write about this holiday in this post; today I want to tell you about a small cemetery located in a small island somewhere in Patzcuaro Lake, Michoacan, Mexico. The island is called Janitzio. Janitzio has its own attractions, I could tell you about its colorful homes, its food, shops, festivities and so on, but today I will just tell you about its small graveyard during the Day of the Dead.

I went there in 2010 with two of my sisters and a friend. After touring around at night, we went to the graveyard and waited at one of the gates. Once the doors were opened we entered and were amazed by the candle lights, flowers, colors, prayers, and offerings. At first there were so many people, but later on they were gradually leaving, including my sisters and friend. I stayed with the intention of spending the night there. I wanted to watch and take pictures all night. Here are some of the pictures I took.

Note: Some descriptions are at the bottom of each picture or set of pictures. Individual pictures can be enlarged if you click on them.

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Las tumbas estaban adornadas con velas y abundantes flores de cempasúchil naranja y amarillo.

Graves were decorated with candles and many cempasuchil flowers (a type of yellow and orange marigold flower).

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Cada año en Janitzio el panteón se llena de gente local, turistas nacionales y extranjeros. A las primeras horas de abierto el panteón en la noche es casi imposible caminar por la cantidad de gente que quiere entrar.

Every year in Janitzio the graveyard is full of local people, other tourists from all over Mexico and foreigners from all continents. As soon as the graveyard is open, people come in and it is almost impossible to walk because it is all crowded.

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Conforme avanza la noche, poco a poco la gente empieza a irse quedándose los familiares de los difuntos y algunos turistas. En la foto de arriba se ven canastos con comida. Una de las tradiciones en el día de los muertos es llevar ofrendas de comida a los difuntos.

As the night goes by, people start leaving gradually and you notice that now the majority of those who stay are the relatives of those who have passed away and are buried in that cemetery. In the pictures above you can see some baskets with food. One of the several observed traditions during the Day of the Dead is bringing food offerings to the dead.

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Los familiares de los difuntos pasan la noche en el panteón repitiendo rezos a favor de sus familiares. También comen, duermen y conviven. Un momento en el que los vivos recuerdan a sus muertos y entre aquellos que lo creen, un momento para convivir con ellos y traerles algo de alegría y muestras de cariño y afecto.

Relatives of those who are dead spend the night at the graveyard repeating prayer after prayer in behalf of their relatives. They also eat, sleep and mingle during this night. It is their moment to remember their dead relatives, and for some, it is a time to bring them some company, joy, and affection; a way to keep still in memory those who are gone and never let them be forgotten.

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A medida que la noche pasa y el frío emerge de la tierra, los vivos se cubren con lo que pueden.

As the night gets colder, the living take their blankets and coats to keep themselves warm.

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Y el tiempo pasa y la madrugada llega, pero las velas no se apagan, los más descansados siguen despiertos y continúan en vela.

As time goes by, the early morning comes but the candles don’t fade. Those who still have some energy don’t sleep and continue in vigil.

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Como parte de las ofrendas no faltan las calaveritas de azúcar decoradas e incluso con la inscripción de algún nombre de aquellos que ya partieron.

As part of the food offerings, there are always sugar skulls decorated even with the name of some of those who are gone.

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Llegada la luz tempranera  los que se quedaron despiertan para realizar sus últimos rezos.

Once the morning has arrived, the ones who stayed wake up to offer their last prayers and pay their last respect to their deceased relatives.

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Algunos se pierden entre rezos y pensamientos de nostalgia mientras otros vuelven en si para dar los útlimos vistazos al cementerio y a sus visitantes.

Some get lost between prayers and thoughts of nostalgia while others come back to give a last glimpse to the cemetery and its visitors.

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La gente entonces empieza a prepararse para regresar a sus rutinas diarias.

People begin getting ready to come back to their daily routines.

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Y una de las dos entradas al panteón de Janitzio. Los que lo cruzan después de haber pasado la noche ahí nos vamos con el recuerdo de una experiencia única e inolvidable.

This is one of the two gates of Janitzio graveyard. Those of us who cross them after having spent a night there, leave with a unique and unforgettable experience to become one of those who can say “I spent a night at Janitzio graveyard on the Day of the Dead.”

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  • Rosalynde

    Thank you for this gorgeous photography and the description of your experience. I shared this post on a Facebook page I manage called “Mormon in St. Louis.” Happy Day of the Dead from your fellow Saints in Missouri!

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