A couple of weeks ago, my friend Kathi and I went around the high hills (or low mountains, depending on your perspective) to the the north of Jocotepec to see if there were any wildflowers showing themselves.
It was rather late in the year to be looking for them, but since we had had some rains in September and even a few in October, long after the rainy season usually ends, we thought we might find something. And so we did. Not just some wildflowers, but one of the most elaborate little cemeteries I’ve ever seen.
If you travel a couple of miles north toward Guadalajara from Jocotepec on Mexico Highway 15, you’ll see a turn off for the little pueblos of Potrerillos and Las Trojes. And even though it’s only a short distance from Joco as the eagle flies, and even as the RAV4 drives, it’s a very different type of place.
My friend Phyllis, who has lived hereabouts for many, many years, says that the little towns on the north side of the mountains remind her of what the north shore of Lake Chapala where we now live, used to be like 30 years ago. Lots of flowers right next to the main road, for instance.
And boys learn from their father how to herd cattle:
while seated on a beautiful horse and saddle, even if their feet don’t quite reach the stirrups:
But, as I said, Kathi and I were there looking for wildflowers and wild plants. One of the things that both of us noticed is how many plants were thriving on the hillsides, even this late in the year.
And how many were growing cheek-by-jowl with harvested crops:
The most beautiful grouping of flowers we saw, in yellow, white, purple, pink, and green were between Potrerillos and Las Trojes, but unfortunately my camera had conked out by then because (1) it’s old, and (2) I’d taken a few too many photos at the cemetery just outside of Potrerillos.
Kathi and I hadn’t planned to go there at all. Heck, let’s admit it, we didn’t even know the place existed. But as we drove over to take a look at the main church (templo), we both saw the panteon (cemetery) in the distance. We were both gobsmacked by the number of monuments or mausoleums in the place, so we HAD to go over and check it out.
And, friends, we were even more gobsmacked (I love that word) when we got there!
First of all, it’s a loooong walk on a dirt road from the church to the panteon. A long way to carry a coffin as folks mostly do around here. Once we got to the entrance gates to the cemetery, we discovered they were gold. (Kath mentioned that at least they weren’t pearly, so she was willing to drive through them.)
All along the way from the gates were these brick pyramids with upside down pots on them. I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean, but I’d like to know.
It was the panteon itself that kinda freaked Kathi and I out that day. They were all so elaborate.
And most of them said “Property of….” Usually around here, we just see family names on tombstones.
There were even burial sites with what appeared to be a casita next to them:
And some that looked like casitas all by themselves:
I mean, this one has curtains!
But I think, honestly, that the thing that made Kathi and I think the most about the afterlife was the fact that almost every gravesite/mausoleum we saw had these:
Yes! Air vents!!
Okay, honestly? It didn’t freak me out that much; it kind of gave me hope. Reminded me of the poem: “Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there; I do not sleep.”
So make of it what you will. Happy Halloween and Day of the Dead.