Avenida Pax (Freedom Avenue) dead-ends into Cementerio General de Santiago (General Cemetery of Santiago). This is the largest cemetery in Latin America covering .32 sq. miles (85 hectares) with over 2 million burials. All but two of Chile’s presidents are buried here. Originally, only those of the Catholic faith could be buried in Cementerio General. Now, a person’s faith is not a factor.
On Friday, May 13, 2016, my Spanish Language School, IChil, took a field trip to the General Cemetery. One of the instructors, Fabian, was our tour guide, a treat to have someone as knowledgeable as Fabian to explain the details of various grave sites.
Extraordinary burial examples:
1. Chile, similar to other countries, attract foreigners. The US was not the only country that saw an influx of immigration in the 1870;s. Many landed in Chile. They formed a “society”. Only if you were a member of that society could you be buried in this 8 story mausoleum.
2. For me, the most interesting monument was to those 2,000-3,000 people who died in the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Company Fire). The Jesuit congregation was celebrating the Fiesta of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 1863). Candles and oil lamps profusely adorned the church. The key to the accident was that the church doors only opened INWARD. Around 7:00 p,m., an oil lamp caught the curtains on fire. Panic ensured as the people ran to exit the church. Before long the door were blocked with human bodies. The priests retreated to the sacristy and closed the doors behind them, leaving this exit sealed off. When the roof collapsed, those that had survived to this point, were doomed. The good that came from this disaster was that Santiago formed a Fire Department, which is still in existence today.
3. During the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), his military killed between 2,500 – 3,000 dissidents and detained as many as 40,000 prisoners at a time. This photo lists all the known names of those who perished during Pinochet’s regime. The Pinochet period is one of sadness for the Chilean people. When they speak of it, their voices become almost a whisper.
4. Here is what happens when a earthquake happens. The original family of this tomb was rich, but after their deaths, the inheritance to the children was squandered. Now, they don’t have the money to repair the tomb. That’s life…no death.
5. Faith, hope and love demonstrated in architecture and art:
How to get there:
Take Metro Line 2 to exit Cementerios. This exit places you at one of the entrances to the cemetery.