The English Cemetery – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Death in Mexico is laughing sugar candy skulls, altars crammed with orange and yellow flowers, the smell of copal, the festive skeleton lithographs. In the English cemetery it’s this bone-chill that slices down your spine and the darkness of the tress, making it seem as though it’s always twilight.The English brought their customs to Mexico. Their dresses and their tea. Their ladies and their diplomats. Their engineers and businessmen.
They also brought their own Death, which is not our Death, and it sits there, among hundreds of tombs oriented towards England.
The cemetery falls to pieces these days and the only way to get past the iron gates is to wait patiently for the lone caretaker to turn the key. He’s not supposed to do it, but does it anyway for the tourists and the kids. He makes a pittance from what the municipality and the historical association pay him. Put a few bills in his chapped hands and wait for the gate to fling open with a creak.
Stone angels stare at the trees and crosses strain against the sky. Odd-sounding names are carved into stone. Bell. Turner. Morgan. Dudley.
There are five sturdy willows in the cemetery, growing in a circle. In that circle – if you pay enough attention – you can sense their Death there, which is not our Death.
It’s a certain bit of darkness, of swirling mist, of the way the light strains through the trees. And the cold, of course. And that alien feeling that makes you take a step back because it’s so different from the warmth of our Death.
It’s a good thing to leave the cemetery, to listen to the iron gate close behind and walk down the hill. To pat the head of the stone lions which guard the cemetery’s road and to look straight ahead. Never back, never towards the cemetery.
Our Death, who is our Mother, walks decked in marigolds, but I do not know what vestments this other Death wears.
At night I lay in bed and I think about the iron gates of the cemetery and I wonder what I might see if I did look back one day. If I turned my head as we went down the hill, what would I see?
This Death speaks of soft corruption using the language of worms and though I will not turn I sometimes wonder, what if I did?
The English brought their Death and it sleeps, restless, atop that hill.