Journal, May 23, 1976 PM

We went to the San Salvador cemetery today. I had heard it had some impressive and fascinating monuments, but even so was not prepared for the grand tour we got. Ed {Shiffer} knows people who live in the shanty town near the cemetery. He works with their kids through CREFAC. And it turned out the father of 2 of the boys who went with us & the family of another man who came along are tomb & monument builders. They knew the cemetery like I know the creek-bottoms back home!

We saw a monument with a stylized airplane on top, built over the grave of an Italian pilot who apparently was an aviation pioneer in El Salvador. We saw another monument which had, mounted on top (covered with a thin concrete coat), the motorcycle on which the man buried below had died. The front wheel was all bent up from the impact! We saw “la Novia” {the Bride}, a marble monument with a beautiful statue of a bride in front of it, which our guides said was erected in memory of a young bride who died at her wedding, emotionally overcome. We saw a monument with a huge basement where all Spanish citizens who die here are supposedly buried. We saw several graves of presidents and a few of martyrs to freedom or patriotism. God it is incredible the expense they go to to “honor” their dead here. They build tombs you can walk into the upper part of to place flowers on marble altars, with pictures of Christ or of the deceased inside. Towers & statues are not uncommon. One of the old presidents (Gerardo Barrios, I think) has a monument with a life-sized statue of him, lying on his deathbed, with his wife weeping over him, done by a local sculptor who still lives. He’s the guy who made the big push for the introduction of coffee culture here (our guides affirmed) in the 1870s & 1880s when the market for indigo went to pot, D.E.P.D. {Descansa En Paz Divino or rests in divine peace}. The Jews bury their dead in their own closed piece of holy ground - no admittance - and the boys claimed their funerals always start on the dot! The poor bury their dead across the road from the rich, and those who build the great tombs live in the shanty town on the other side of the cemetery wall near a big gully. But surely the tomb builders will have nice tombs one day if they teach their children well!

Claudia Lars has a precious chapter in “Tierra de Infancia” in which she recounts a favorite tale of her grandmother’s, “La Virgen Era Una Indita” {The Virgin Was A Native}, in which the virgin was an indigenous Salvadoran who by a bizarre set of circumstances left her native “pueblo” {country} and ended up having her son in far away Bethlehem. Por mala suerte {Unfortunately}, she stayed in Palestine and never returned to El Salvador where, surely, her noble son would have lived a long, full life & not been crucified by “los cheles y los judios” {the whites and the jews}!

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