November 4, 2009 – Wednesday
The contrast with Memorial Park could not be starker. Here we are in Santiago City Public Cemetery on Monday 2nd November 2009, All Souls Day, the second of the two public holiday days. We are visiting the grave of Jane’s two baby girls who were born prematurely and died within days of their birth. They share a little morsoleum building which contains other relatives. Compared to the other graves it is clean and dry inside.
As you will see it is not meant to be an entirely sad occasion. The family bring food with them, light candles, lay flowers, play chess and laugh and joke together. Dark humour rules as Gina’s 83 year old grandmother is teased about what will happen to her when she dies. But she’s used to this kind of teasing. An offering of food is made to the deceased relatives which in the present world seems to be benefiting a long queue of ants.
Then cemetery outside is quite disgusting with litter and discarded food everywhere. The graves are marked by concrete slabs, some several levels high, and in the distance are the multi-storey constructions of Chinese families, some with balconies and even parking spaces in front. Here and there whole families gather on the top of graves, shelting under their corrugated iron roofs.
It’s good business for the sellers of peanuts, ice cream and water.
We stayed until early afternoon, eating a takeaway pancit, sugared casaba roots, glazed bananas, and drinking soft drinks.