I'm in Campeche. I'm having breakfast with the owner of the house I'm staying at. She has dug out maps, history books, and magazines, to show me what I might do while in Campeche. She is an amazing woman. Originally from Mexico City, she came to Campeche five years ago, fell in love with a house and bought it. She rents out rooms, to make up for the expenses.
Campeche is the most beautiful city I've seen. It has a fortress that surrounds it, built hundreds of years ago, as a defense to keep pirates out. The entire interior of the fortress was named a UNESCO heritage site, almost 20 years ago. Each building inside the city wall is meticulously well kept- vibrant yellows and pinks and blues. Outside the city walls, is the exact same architecture, the same colors, but not as well maintained, which is just as visually appealing.
My host is incredibly proud of Campeche, and I try to show some enthusiasm as she directs me towards yet more ruins just outside the city. At this point I cannot bear to see any more ruins. She must have seen it in my eyes.
"You've been to Pomuch?"
No. I haven't even heard of it. She smiles from ear to ear, and begins to tell me about the cemetery in Pomuch. She tells me that they bury people, then after a year, they excavate them, clean their bones, and store them in little houses throughout the cemetery.
I had been planning on leaving Campeche shortly after breakfast, but these little houses full of bones seems like an opportunity not to be missed. Pomuch is forty five minutes from Campeche, and a relatively small village. I'm one of the few cars in the village, and definitely the only gringa. I stumble upon the cemetery, and at first, I think I've been had. It looks like many other cemeteries in Mexico, brightly colored cement boxes, decorated with flowers are clear from the outside. But once you peer inside of the brightly colored boxes- you see that there is a skeleton nicely tucked inside. Most of them have little embroidered handkerchiefs that line the box. Some of the skulls wear wigs. Some of the skeletons are kept company by other skeletons. Some of the skeletons, should have decomposed a bit more before they were excavated...
I am oddly not at all disturbed by any of this. My hostess referred to them as "little apartments for dead people." It's no stranger than burning a body and keeping it above your fireplace. What astonishes me more than all the skeletons surrounding me, are the brightly colored houses that they are kept in. It is not the black, white and grey cemetery, that you see in the United States- it is bright and vibrant, and even with piles of bones surrounding you, it doesn't feel so sad.
In Mexico, death is not the end. Death is not feared. Death in Mexico means something different.
I'm Lauri. Teacher for nine months of the year, vagabond for the other three. I've traveled to France, Russia, West Africa, SE Asia and all over the US. This summer I'll be driving to Mexico with my little dog, Nilo.