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Chichicastenango Cemetery, A Colorful Maya Tribute To The Dearly Departed

The Maya believe that making their departed’s resting place beautiful eases all worries about mortality.

Nobelle Borines

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Most people view cemeteries as dark, depressing places where the departed ones are laid to rest. However, the cemetery in a small town in Guatemala is nothing like your regular graveyard. The Chichicastenango Cemetery can be seen even from a distance because of the vividly colored tombstones and mausoleums. After all, the cemetery reflects the residents’ K’iche’ Maya beliefs that what happens when life ends should be embraced and not feared.

Getting to Chichicastenango is not an easy task. After all, the town is located in the mountainous region at an altitude of 6,447 ft. Nevertheless, tourists travel to the K’iche’ Maya town just to see its colorful cemetery. After all, Cementerio General celebrates life after passing on.

It’s hard to miss Cementerio General once you reach the town of Chichicastenango

The cemetery is already colorful all year round. However, it truly comes to life during the annual celebration of the Day of the Dead in early November. People repaint the tombs in vibrant colors that all have certain symbolism. White represents purity while yellow stands for the sun’s life force. Turquoise represents protection and sometimes pink is just the departed’s favorite color.

The residents come to the cemetery with flowers, candles, incense, and chickens to celebrate with their departed loved ones.

Some tombs are waiting for their splash of color

It might look like the residents of Chichicastenango don’t take the graveyard too seriously. However, a proper burial is very important to the K’iche’ Maya tradition.

According to legend, the deceased dwell in Xibalba, the Maya version of the underworld. Although they are still able to communicate with the living through dreams, they are cut off when their body is not properly buried.

You can also find a pyramid at the Chichicastenango Cemetery

Although most people fear the end of life, the Maya believe that making their departed’s resting place beautiful eases all worries about mortality. It is unlikely that other cultures will adopt the tradition soon. Nevertheless, you can always expect Chichicastenango’s Cementerio General to be filled with colors and vitality.

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