Stories in the Cemetery

Thursday, July 5, 2007

I visited the cemetery marked on my visitor’s map of the town. Rather large, it’s also somewhat removed from the town center. It took me 20 or 30 minutes to walk there from the town plaza. Looking for the stories of the early pioneers, I was rather disappointed. Most graves seemed recent, from 1970 or later. I asked about the cemetery, and I was told me there’s an “old” cemetery near to the town center. Only the old families can be buried there in the family tombs since there is no more room.

So, I found the old cemetery. This cemetery is much more diverse and colorful than the newer one. (This cemetery is reminiscent of the cemeteries in the villages of Guatemala, which have tombs of many colors.) Here, there is a lot of variation in the graves and tombs, with the oldest being wooden board tombstones and wrought iron fences. I am interested in the stories of older cemeteries -- like the grave of a young mother (30) who dies six weeks after her infant daughter (also buried there) in the 1930s. I’m told that many of the graves of fathers/sons and brothers in the old cemetery are from 1937. (The dates, though, are hard for me to find on the older grave sites.) Over local 100 men died in a mine explosion in Argentina in 1937. At that time, many men worked in Argentina, but in the recent past, it’s too hard to get the legal papers.

I was also looking for a different story ... but I didn't find it. I was curious if I would find the graves of the ten men or so who were killed in a labor dispute in 1919. In 1918, a large modern packing plant was built -- state of the art with freezing capabilities – to allow easy shipping of meat. The factor workers were initially paid much more than the local sheepherders, and a labor dispute broke out. Guns were drawn, and ten men died. But … I didn't find any graves much older than the 1930s.

Apparently, there is yet an older cemetery on a nearby island, but it is part of the Eberhard ranch. The Eberhard ranch was the first sheep ranch in the area, and the men in the dispute would have worked there.