Exploring a colorful Guatemala cemetery (San Pedro la Laguna)

Things to do in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Last week, I visited a cemetery in Guatemala. I know it sounds strange and maybe even slightly gloomy. But if you dig past the spooky surface, cemeteries can be an interesting destination. The architecture and placement of the tombs reveal a lot about the country’s view on life and death, class differences and culture. The first time I discovered this was in San Pedro la Laguna in Guatemala.

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Exploring a cemetery in Guatemala

A cemetery in Guatemala is much more colorful, and many of them keep the coffins above ground. In Christianity, we’re so used to the phrase:  earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, so it was fascinating to see another approach in Guatemala.

Cemeteries in Central America are not just mournful places where people come to rest. They are vibrant meeting points where people celebrate the dead on festivals like the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). During this holiday, family and friends gather to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them.

Things to do in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Exploring the cemetery

Things to do in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Exploring the cemetery

Although they share common traits, Guatemalan cemeteries vary in construction and looks. Most wealthy people build mausoleums and paint them in bright pastel colors, while urban areas have cement blocks where six up to thirty people are buried.

Exploring the cemetery

Tips for your visit

Most cemeteries have rules governing what you can and cannot do. Be respectful of these rules. Also, it’s best to walk around the graves if they are clearly marked, don’t leave litter behind, and speak softly and in normal tones to show dignity and respect at all times.

Other fascinating cemeteries:

  • La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Saint Louis Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
  • Old Jewish Cemetery Josefov, Prague, Czech Republic
  • Merry Cemetery, Spâna, Maramures county, Romania
  • Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris, France
Things to do in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

 Have you ever been to a Guatemala cemetery? Would you consider it?

More posts from Guatemala you might like

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Visiting a cemetery might seem strange and even gloomy. But if you dig past the spooky surface, cemeteries can be an interesting destination. Here's how a cemetery in Guatemala looks like.

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  1. Hi Miriam. At the pres
    My name is William Currllin, I was born in El Salvador in 1934 and came to the United Sates in 1953 to serve in the US Army after the Korea war. At the present time I reside in Cerritos, a midsize town in the metropolitan area of Los Angeles, California.
    In researching my family origins I discovered that my father’s brother, William Fredrich Currlin, had died in Guatemala on February 16, 1920 of a fire arm accident while working on a brithish owned gold mine as an engineer. The official record his dead contained in a Report of the Dead of an American Citizen Abroad issued by the consular services in Guatemala , states that he died at the Mine el Socorro and was buried at the English Cemetery El Socorro near the city of Concepcion de las Minas. I wonder if you have any information any of your writings. that could help me locate this cemetery I’ll appreciate any help you can provide me. Best regards.

    1. Hi William,
      Thanks for reaching out. I’m afraid I can’t help you find your uncle’s grave because I only visited this small cemetery in San Pedro La Laguna. I hope you find it.
      All the best.

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