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Saturday, December 02, 2006

ADVENTURES IN CHILE: Cementario General, The City of the Dead


Christmas music is playing in the malls and there is a festive spirit in the air. It seems odd, in this hot summery weather to see the Christmas decorations up.

We went to the Artisan Market in Banquadano this morning for some last minute gift shopping. Then to Cafe Cecilias for lunch. We took pictures of the crewÑ Cecilia, Mommy, Marisol and Leonardo. Then Cecilia took us for a tour of the Cementario General, a sprawling mtropolis of graes -- really, a city of the dead. La Ciudad de los Muertos. Hundreds and thousands of tombs, some incredibly ornate, mausoleums dating ack tothe early years of Santiago, rows and rows of wals of tomb about 2X2, graves of the poor marked with their plain metal crosses and the ordinary man{s simple grve with modest stones decorated with flowers, artificial and real. Some like mini condos for the dead or aprtment blocks. Quite an incredible sight. Here is the final resting place of political figures and Chilean folk heroes and musicians.

As we entered the cemetary there is a high wall engraved with the thousands of those missing and presumed dead from the 1973 military junta and another triple height long wall containing the tombs of those killed and spcaes for those unidentified dead. A very moving sight in memory of those who were murdered during the military regime of Pinochet. It is called Memorial del Detenido Desparecido y del Ejecileto Politico and was opened in 1994.

We visited the graves of Violetta Parra, a beloved Chilean singer´; the impressive monument and tomb of Salvatore Allende; the mordern metallic engraved sculputre marking the grave of Glady Marin, leader of the Communist Party of Chile who died recently, and far back by the graves of the poor and working class, the simple square red painted 2X2 tomb of the famous folk singer Victor Jara, one of those incarcerated in the stadium along with all the thousands of others that had been rounded up during the junta. When he refused to stop playing his songs for the detainees the soldiers smashed his hands and beat him to death.

It was interesting to note the group of young people, some who wouldnt have even been born in Sept 1973 who had come to pay homage to these national heros. How many thousands of those dead or missing were just the same age as these young men and women, because a great many of them were students.

After this interesting tour, Cecilia had to return to work, so Patrick and I went shopping to a big supermarket in Las Condes to buy some special goodies for Cecilia and grandma. They have been so generous and kind to us and refuse to let us treat them. So we loaded up on groceries that we know they like.

When we got back home Cecilia´s oldest son, Carlos was there so we were privileged to meet him. Cecilia was upset with us for buying her those treats but we insisted we wanted to reciprocate for her generosity. We are going to miss our little ´family´here I am invited Ceciia to come and stay with me a few days if she decides to come to Canada next summer. I told her we´d get into mischief!


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