Everybody’s working for the weekend


Usually it is just Yago, cats, dead people and I hanging out at the cemetery.  This week we have shared the space with crowds of people,  four parking attendants, and the local police who are controlling traffic.  The Day of the Dead is coming and there is cleaning to do.

These aren’t your typical, somber cemetery visitors.  Instead of bowed heads and black clothes, sleeves are rolled up and arms are full of buckets and step ladders.  Along with flowers they bring paint cans and caulking guns, scrub brushes and brooms.  It is a community-wide cleaning spree in honor of the dead.

The adjacent flower stands are creeping into the traffic and doing a booming business.

The Day of the Dead is on November second.  Long before Halloween was high-jacked by snack-sized Smarties and plastic costumes, the defunct have always enjoyed their day of honor in the fall.

It is celebrated differently all over the world, and even in Spain it varies from town to town.  Here in Algeciras, it is all mixed up with nuts, saints and plastic pumpkins.  Halloween,  All Saint’s Day (which is a national holiday on November first) and finally the Day of the Dead on November second, stretch the festivites into yet another long weekend.

But before you bust out the Mini Mars Bars, there is work to be done.  Families flock to the cemetery to clean the graves of their loved ones.  Headstones are scrubbed and polished.  The sidewalk in front is swept.  Repairs are made to hanging vases.  Plastic flowers are replaced and fresh flowers are added for the big day.

I feel stupid lurking around taking photos. Their gentle scrubbing seems like such an intimate gesture.  I hate to be disrespectful so I have to sneak around.  Well, that and the caretaker once told me and my camera to take a hike.

I hope the plastic flowers are recycled.

Apparently not.

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2 comments

  1. So wise, visiting and caring for your dead like that. Here we just put ’em in the ground and mostly leave the gravestone to crumble, the grass to grow, the plastic flowers to gather mold. Keeping the dead ‘alive’ probably makes it feel less difficult to take your place among them when the time comes.

    1. It does seem like a special opportunity to remember and express love for family in a tangible way. Why don’t we have something that fills that need?

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