The sweet little cemetery in our home town, El Retiro, Colombia

What is it about cemeteries? To us, a graveyard is not just a microcosm of a community, but the ultimate level playing field – a place where everyone in town ends up sooner or later, regardless of social status.  And each cemetery has its own unique stories to tell. That’s why we always make a point to visit the graveyard when we visit a new city – it grounds us (no pun intended) and gives us a deeper sense of the place and its history.

In honor of the spooky season, here are some of our favorite cemeteries from our travels through Latin America.

Barichara, Colombia

In Summer 2021, we took a road trip through Colombia’s Santander and Boyacá departments and visited many of this country’s most beautiful Pueblos Patrimonios (heritage towns). Barichara in Santander was one of our favorites, a fairytale village of whitewashed sandstone in one of Colombia’s most scenic regions.  The Barichara cemetery is not only beautiful, but it has a unique feature: Many of the gravestones have some element representing the deceased’s occupation or favorite pastime.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The renowned La Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires is primarily known as the final resting place for Evita Peron (or is it?? BWHAHAHA . . . ). But La Recoleta is so much more: Over-the-top decadence, much of it gone to ruin, creepy and decaying coffins, and some of the most hair-raising ghost stories you’ll ever hear.

Here’s our original blog post about La Recoleta:

Ghost Stories at La Recoleta, Buenos Aires

Medellín, Colombia

We got pleasantly lost one day in Medellín’s Cementerio Museo de San Pedro. As with many other cemeteries in Latin America, most of the dead are buried here in vertical vaults, one atop the other. There’s wall after wall of inscribed tombs, the fronts of which are often elaborately decorated to reflect the deceased’s personality, life, and interests. As Medellín’s oldest cemetery (started in 1842), San Pedro is also a who’s who of movers and shakers in Colombia and Medellín over the past century and a half, with past presidents, prominent industrialists, and other luminaries buried there. But it was the graves of everyday folks that really moved us.

Havana, Cuba

Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón in Havana is sun-washed and sprawling, with plenty of creepy ghost stories in its own right.

A famous miracle occurred here, and this pretty grave draws scores of people every day. What happened? Read our blog post to find out!

Here’s our original post about the Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón: 

Havana has cemetery stories, too

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

We’ve just returned from a three-week visit to Brazil, including 10 days in fabulous (and I do mean FABULOUS) Rio de Janeiro. (Stay tuned, lots of blogging is coming from this trip!) One of the highlights of our Rio visit was a stop at Cemitério São João Batista, final resting place of world-famous entertainers, politicians, and civic leaders. The Cemitério is incredibly scenic, watched over by the world-famous Christ statue on top of Corcovado Mountain.

Paraty, Brazil

About a five-hour drive down the coast from Rio de Janeiro is the beautifully preserved colonial town of Paraty. On a fluke one evening as we were walking into town for dinner, we popped in to the Paraty cemetery. Perched on a hill, the cemetery has commanding views of the town that are especially pretty at night. But – big EWWW! – we kept looking down at the ground to see thousands of cockroaches and other big bugs skittering around! As if the cemetery at night wasn’t creepy enough. We spent extra time shaking out our clothes and shoes that night.

BOOOOO!! Have a safe and fun Halloween. And U.S. folks, don’t forget to VOTE!!


    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      They definitely got us out of there lickety split!

  1. Good timing. I’m so glad you like to visit cemeteries. They reveal so much history!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Mimi! I know we share that love of cemeteries. 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Oh my, how could we have left out San Pedro? Of course we’ve been there. I added a blurb and some pictures – thanks for jogging my memory! I forget why we didn’t visit Chacarita when we were in Buenos Aires. I think we were just so overwhelmed by La Recoleta. Enjoy Day of the Dead, Jennifer!

      • OMG, how could I misspell cemetery? Next time you’re in Baires, make sure to check out Chacarita, because it truly is a city of the dead, avenues dedicated to poets, artists, writers, politicans, composers, elegant and enormous. And there’s Carlos Gardel and his cigarette.

        • John and Susan Pazera Reply

          I remember being disappointed about missing Chacarita because we are such huge fans of Carlos Gardel. We know we’ll be back to BA someday – it’s such a fabulous city!

  2. I never realized how much you have explored cemeteries across the globe. Happy Halloween, and I’m sooo looking forward to your stories from Rio!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Happy Halloween to you, Bama! Rio post is coming . . .

    • Great post! Cemeteries can be wonderful places to learn more about a new culture. Enjoy being back at home for a while!

      • John and Susan Pazera Reply

        Thanks, Henry! We’re loving sleeping in our own bed.

  3. Oh what fun! Oops, I guess I shouldn’t say that about places for dead people. I have no respect and they will come to haunt me 😂
    Only joking. I did enjoy your post though. I don’t seek out cemeteries, but it’s a great idea. Will think of it in future. Even so I’ve been to the one in Paris, and Recoleta twice, and by accident the cemetery that rises up a steep hillside in Hong Kong that was fascinating.
    Great post!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Ha, I don’t think the dead people mind too much if we have a little fun 🙂 Pere Lachaise is high on our list in Paris, and now we need to check out that one in Hong Kong. Thanks, Alison!

  4. We’ve been to the Barichara cemetery, and I’ll put Rio’s on the list but I’m not sure about Paraty’s with the cockroaches! Put General Cementerio in La Paz and Sucre on your list. Happy Halloween!! Maggie

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      I know John has been getting some great ideas from you about Bolivia – we’ll definitely put those two on our list. Happy Halloween to you both, and have a caipirinha for us in Brazil! And if you visit the Paraty cemetery in the day you probably won’t see a single creepy crawly.

  5. Such a great post! I really enjoyed seeing the cemeteries and individual graves – sorry if that sounds morbid. Cemeteries are fascinating, and you have shared some fascinating ones. Thank you!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Mike and Kellye! Somehow we don’t find cemeteries morbid (except for maybe those rotting caskets in La Recoleta – yikes!). Glad you enjoyed the post!

  6. Enjoying cemeteries may be morbid, but I find them incredibly beautiful and sacred in terms of respect to those whose lives had been meaningful…the one in Rio de Janeiro looks so pristine in all of its marble…goes to show that many Latin American countries really pay respect to those who have gone!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      You expressed exactly what we love about cemeteries – the graves and monuments are celebrations of people’s lives. It’s amazing to see how the Latin American people honor the memories of their departed loved ones, sometimes in really colorful ways. Thanks, Rebecca!

  7. Happy Halloween John and Susan! I really like your post, it’s interesting that you have visited cemeteries while traveling. Latin America has very colorful and beautiful cemeteries. If you ever visit San Luis Potosí there is the famous cemetery, Cementerio El Saucito, it has become quite an attraction in SLP, especially during Día de los Muertos.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Liz! We are putting ideas together for a trip to Mexico next year for Día de los Muertos. San Luis Potosí is definitely on our radar!

  8. Well I’ll definitely be studying your Brazil posts very closely….Rio is very high on our list! As for your cemetery addiction…..have you thought of seeing a shrink ha ha ha……

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Bwahahaha (Spooky ghost laugh)! Brazil posts are coming. I’ve been trying to get a handle on how to describe Brazil – it’s different in so many wonderful ways. Stay tuned!

      PS I admire your ability to blog from the road. I’ve found that we get so caught up in experiencing a place that it’s really hard to sit down and focus on the blog. I end up playing catch-up when we get home. 🙂

      • Yes a few people have said the same, but enjoy doing it that way…but we share the load so that might make it a bit easier. I like to try and catch the emotions I’m feeling when discovering places – if I leave it, it comes out much more cold.

  9. What a fun way to get into the spooky season! I always love a walk through the cemetery. Like you say, it gives a perspective and a realignment in a way that nothing else does. Really loved the pictures of the Colombian cemetery!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much! Others might not understand our obsession with cemeteries, but clearly you get what we love about them. The cemetery in Medellin is especially moving – it’s as if you could feel the people’s expressions of love and grief through the tomb decorations. Some of them moved me to tears.

  10. Happy Halloween guys:) Like yourselves I enjoy having a look around cemeteries and I have visited quite a few. I have not been to these ones from your list. Particularly would love to visit the one in Rio, perhaps next time.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Gilda! The cemetery in Rio was an unexpected pleasure – we stopped there as part of a bike tour (highly recommended). The views of Corcovado from there were so beautiful that it almost seemed contrived (although the cemetery has been there a lot longer than the Cristo statue). It was a big highlight of our Rio visit!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      It’s amazing to see the differences in local burial customs, and how each cemetery reflects its own community. Thanks for reading, Sue and Dave!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Hannah! Visiting those two Brazilian cemeteries so close to Halloween made this post a natural. We agree – every cemetery is peaceful and moving!

  11. I’ve always been interested in cemeteries. In Los Angeles I saw Marilyn Monroe’s grave where you will see a fresh rose every single day ordered by Joe DeMagio. I’m mostly intrigued by very old graves and have spent days visiting them. Enjoy each day, Muriel

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Muriel! I wish we had gone to that famous cemetery while we lived in LA. I’ve heard that legend of the rose on Marilyn’s grave. I wonder who’s placing it now? I agree that the really old graves are especially interesting. Have a lovely day yourself! 🙂

  12. We do the exact same thing – always making it a point to visit cemeteries in every new place we visit. It’s always so interesting see the wide variety of ways each culture remembers their dead. Most cemeteries in the US are so boring…

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi! Here it is, five months later, and I just noticed your comment. So sorry, better late than never! But thanks so much for reading. I agree that Latin American cemeteries are so much more colorful and dramatic than anything we’ve experienced in North America. Happy Easter!
      – Susan

  13. It’s neat that you make a point to visit cemeteries when you travel. I’ve been to a few in different places and it’s always interesting to me how elaborate some of the headstone monuments (is that what they’re called?) are.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Becky. The more we visit Latin American cemeteries, the more we realize that they’re really about the people left behind, as much as the deceased. The lengths people will go to gather some comfort by decorating headstones, etc. It’s really moving.

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