We have been to some cemeteries in our travels including the one in Terlingua, Texas, New Orleans, Lousiana, and even Paris France. While each of those have their own things that set them apart, none of them come close to the massiveness and just plain massiveness of the cemetery in Santiago!
The cemetery is 210 acres, let me repeat that...210 acres. I live on ONE acre and a ton of people could be buried here, especially if we built upwards and super especially if it was a cremation only site. So I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that there are over TWO million people buried in the cemetery in Santiago! It is one of the largest cemeteries in all of Latin America and it is still used today.
Let's take a walk around, shall we? (Although we are only going to see a very small portion of the place!)
This was never a motel. We know because we asked (thank you google translator!). It is as big as a motel though and sure looked it might have been one. This is called a columbarium, which according to this website is a structure with niches (small spaces) for placing cremated remains in urns or other approved containers. It may be outdoors or part of a mausoleum.
I can't even begin to estimate the number of people that call this columbarium their physical body's finally resting place. What you see below is one section of one side.
There was also hallways!
And three stories!
I do pause and wonder, if any niches are for sale (se vende), were they previously or currently occupied?? How exactly would a space suddenly become available??
I have other questions. So many questions....
The cemetery is large, (did I mention that?) so large that a lady decided to set up shop selling coffee, tea, snacks, and even candy. If you are on her side of the cemetery about to embark on the long trek to the other side, you need sustenance....right??
The huge columbarium was only one very small part of this place. We saw row after row after long row of other columbarium structures that looked like this. (Still looks pretty much like a motel if you ask me!)
Put all together in one long line, I honestly think the columbariums would have reach the borders of the USA! (Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but maybe not!)
Some of the niches in the columbariums were very decorated and regularly maintained such as this one.
Others were the bare minimum, where all they could afford was paint to put the loved one's information and maybe a small candle or two.
Some niches were apparently filled with every possible family member, friends, neighbors, and a few strangers to boot! Take this one, where I counted 18 different names!
Not all the people in the cemetery were buried in columbariums, some were buried below ground.
Did they stay below ground? Looking at this, I am not so sure!!
Some parts of the cemetery were brimming with colors, pinwheels, flowers, and balloons. It made an otherwise somber place seem quite cheerful.
There was one part that to this day, I am confused about. Maybe confused isn't the right word, but at the moment I can't come up with anything else. Let me show you what I am talking about.
This was a memorial and burial place for circus people. It was in the shape of a circus tent and had this sign on the front.
Boleteria means tickets. so this was like a ticket counter and then it also says something along the lines of, "While children exist in the world the circus will be eternal".
My gosh, if that doesn't tug at your heart strings!!
There was actually a wall where the original boundaries of the cemetery were and right in front of this one part was an orange tree of all things! I am sure someone many years ago planted it and it just thrived (unlike anything I try to plant....).
Inside the original border of the cemetery the plots are much more elaborate. There are many fancy mausoleums and some that are still impressive albeit creepy.
Take for instances this one. Looks nice, you can tell someone spent money on it at one time. But you see that ironwork in the front?
That was open-air.
So we, being
nosy curious, looked in.
I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. We probably shouldn't have looked it!!!!
Let's get going to the next part!! Quickly!
Some of the mausoleums had very ornate doors (we aren't going to talk about why there are doors...).
Some of the mausoleums were grand!
Some had been there long enough to be covered in ivy.
You can't really see it in the picture above, but on this one there was the saddest little lion I have ever seen!
His little face just broke my heart!
There weren't many that were in complete ruins like this one, but there were a few.
There are several Chileans of importance buried in the cemetery. All of the presidents of Chile are buried here except for two (one of those being an evil dictator). One tomb that we did see of a former president was Salvador Allende Gossens. He was the one who was in power when the military coup took place in 1973. He committed suicide so he would be taken prisoner by Pinochet (the evil dictator).
Here is the front view of Allende's tomb.
Then around back and down some stairs.
Since I don't want to leave this as everything being sad or creepy, I thought I would end with this photo.
A sculpture of a woman set free from her earthly body in route to her heavenly father.
In my last post about our trip to Santiago, I am going to share with you some of the fun, funny, and strange things we saw that just really didn't go anywhere else but had to be talked about.
I hope you will return to read all about it.