Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
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Cemeteries in Yucatán are known for color and tradition as much as they are about death.
There is perhaps no other cemetery on the Peninsula that better captures this spirit than one found in the small town of Hoctún, roughly 40 miles from Mérida.
Upon arrival at the cemetery, it’s impossible not to notice the impeccable gardens that surround its perimeter — “a true labor of love, says groundskeeper Juan Manzanero.
Aesthetically, Hoctún’s cemetery is a wonderful mix of many of the things that make Yucatán and its relationship with death so interesting.
Walking through the gates, visitors are greeted by a broad walkway flanked with colorful tombs of just about every imaginable color.
Like in any cemetery, some resting places are quite austere, while others could only be described as outright exuberant.
But aside from the cemetery’s undeniable beauty, those with a keen eye will notice the rich tapestry of folklore, tradition, faith, and even whimsy on display.
Because this is Mexico after all, the Virgin of Guadalupe appears prominently and often. However, in many cases, these representations are full of elements that are not exactly “traditional” but rather a reflection of the tastes and passions of the person being honored. One depiction of the Virgin has her sitting atop a logo for a popular soccer team.
Yet other tombs are much more traditional, featuring rather straightforward religious imagery.
Cemeteries in Yucatán are most commonly visited during the anniversary of the passing of loved ones, as well as their birthdays, and of course during the celebration of Day of the Dead — or what they call Hanal Pixán in Yucatán.
It is also common for cemeteries in Yucatán to make reference to a person’s line of work or hobbies. A trovador’s final resting place, for example, was adorned with a guitar.
Though the love and care put into the maintenance of this cemetery have made it a bit of a tourist attraction, remember that its primary function is to honor the community’s dearly departed.
The cemetery in Hoctún is open to the public every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“We are very happy to have people come and visit the cemetery, it is really quite special and extremely important to the community,” says groundskeeper Manzanero.