A candle lights this funeral: All Soul’s Day in Jipijapa

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Photostory by: Jorge Vinueza
to Abraham García y Teresa Zavala E.

There is no Carrara marble; no luxurious “pantheons” or “mausoleums.” At Jipijapa’s cemetery, the candle’s light illuminates the night sky and death sits down to speak with life every November 2, All Soul’s Day, or Día de Difuntos (Day of the Deceased). Amid tombs and crosses, there is a tradition of keeping the deceased company.

In the morning, when the graves are repainted white, it’s a good time to retouch the name, or change the wording on the grave. That’s why at this cemetery in particular you’ll see read short stories and find naïf paintings on graves, recounting the history, every bit as chaotic as today, of the place its people and its landscapes.

At Jipijapa cemetery, children don’t fear death; they play and run around amid the tombstones.

Martin from Sancán has walked among the graves for over 25 years, carrying his guitar. His pupil Jonathan follows him attentively. Martin became an animero long ago, singing the songs that people want their loved ones to hear. Anyone paying for the animero’s services can asked for the deceased’s favorite song — and an extra song is negotiable — but the customer must be moved to at least one tear. Martin starts strumming, his music ricochets off the walls.

This interruption to the dead’s eternal sleep is permitted tonight, as the living try to bridge the gap through song.

They can be seen from the road: white tombs, which lose their orderly arrangement as they climb the hill, acquiring a maze-like distribution thanks to the passage of time and the gravedigger’s calculations making sure everyone gets a space.

‘Animeros’ walk the cemetery looking for families needing their services to dedicate a song to the deceased. An extra song is negotiable. Family members demand tears during at least one song.

And so, although they died, they got their allotted space, a sliver at least, where their families can come to visit, where children run around every November 2, among the dead, amid the light of candles and the songs of yesteryear.

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