Accommodations To Die For
by Maggie Van Ostrand
A report has been circulating in the newspapers about the crushing lack of space in Mexico City's public cemeteries. The solution currently being employed is to dig up the deceased after seven years to make room for newer tenants. It is estimated that a million and a half people (presumably dead) now occupy what are called "temporary graves."
People are worried that their sick relatives will die before the expiration of the seven-year period since the last family member died, and there will be no place to put them.
First, I must explain that I worry about this kind of thing, the kind of thing that won't ultimately matter in my life because if it happens to me, I won't know about it anyway.
When I read about this modern-day dilemma in Mexico affecting all who are potentially deceased (meaning everybody who's currently above ground), I began to worry about what kind of future the dearly departed can now look forward to? I mean, if a person can't even count on eternal rest, then what's the point of dying?
The problem has resulted in capitalistic resourcefulness from Mexico's businessmen. For instance, a market has sprung up in which families can get paid thousands of dollars if they will only evict their loved ones.
This is a Catholic country -- can you imagine the guilt if you give Grandpa the bum's rush by tossing him out and, worse yet, getting paid for it? Where will Grandpa go? Actually he'd have to leave anyway after seven years under city regulations unless family members buy postponements, giving them another seven years for a total of 14; after that, all post-1975 public tombs have to be excavated by cemetery officials who dig up and cremate the remains.
If they're going to be like that about it, what's the point of having remains?
Families who control older plots (pre-1975) now add the accumulating bodies to graves originally meant for one person, in order to avoid the seven?year time limit. What if they stick a sister on top of her previously deceased sister, after they hated each other all their lives?
Talk about eternal revenge!
One of Latin America's largest cemetaries, the 240-hectares Dolores Cemetary in Mexico City, hasn't had a vacancy for "new tenants" since 1970, but they keep busy excavating about ten evictees daily. I certainly hope they don't throw out current tenant Diego Rivera, unless they plan to prop him up for the premiere of Frida, which is scheduled for sometime this fall/winter season.
Four public cemeteries are planned over the next six years, says the city's Mr. Escobar, but the extra space won't meet demand in a city of 20 million where the mortal remains of nearly 200 people are brought to public cemetaries every day. Interment, fleeting though it may be in Mexico D.F., can be had for the peso equivalent of a mere $8 USD.
Happily, there is an alternative and if you have the pesos, you can indeed buy eternal rest. For a mere peso equivalent of $8,000 USD, you can buy a burial service at any of the 15 private cemeteries in Mexico City.
I think the deceased should instead be donated to the Mummy Museum in Guanajuato where they'd be seen and admired by countless thousands of visitors for all time. I for one will not quickly forget the remains of the guy who appeared to have died "in flagrante delicto," his drawers still down around his bony thighs. There was something about him that did not smack of the advertised antiquity -- it might've been those black nylon socks he was still wearing.
It's not just Mexico City that's having body troubles, it's everywhere.
I read that Greeks are having the same problem, but with no viable solution forthcoming. Philosophers alone have taken up the entire island of Crete. New York's Queens County has more acreage devoted to the departed than any other area of comparable size. I want a funeral like John (the Dapper Don) Gotti, had last month in Queens County. He was given an elaborate funeral with lots of New Yorkers hailing him as a hero, a person who had been t to his code, plenty of emotional family members (some collapsing with grief) and lots of mob guys, with federal agents snapping pictures from an undercover van. I know it was Very Hollywood because I read about it in the L.A. Times. Way to go, John.
Or maybe I'd like a funeral like Marilyn Monroe's, with an American baseball hero sending me a rose a day forever.
Those kinds of funerals will not be given for me, but I know one thing for sure. Mexico City is a wonderful place to visit, but I wouldn't want to die there.