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.
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:
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.
Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón in Havana is sun-washed and sprawling, with plenty of creepy ghost stories in its own right.
Here’s our original post about the Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón:
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.
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.