The Buck Starts
"Accommodations To Die For"
By Marge Van Ostrand
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 true 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.