Cemetery in Playa del Carmen

Art at Playa del Carmen Cemetery

Cemeteries are some of the most fascinating places to visit when traveling. It’s interesting to find out how a culture honors their dead. Some customs dictate they bury a person in the ground, some on top of the ground, some in mausoleum, others in elaborate temples, tombs, or pyramids. These memorials for the dead speak volumes about a society.

Dead but not forgotten!

I’ve visited many cemeteries all over the United States (I even had one as my backyard when I was a kid! I spent many hours cleaning up that old graveyard) and I like to find them when I travel. I’ve trekked through one in Edinburgh, two in Frankfurt (talk about some history in the Jewish cemetery!), and a couple in Italy (including some catacombs).

There was one absolutely magical visit to a cemetery during a solar eclipse that I will never forget. We travelled down toward Salem, Oregon, and spent the night with a friend who lived in the area. The next morning (which was also my 39th birthday!), we fought traffic and drove south to get as far as possible into the line of totality.

We ended up going to the Belle Passi Cemetery, and I experienced my first, but hopefully not last, total solar eclipse. It was an amazing experience, and especially special to have that experience with friends in a graveyard. When I got to México, I knew I needed to hunt down a cemetery, as I had heard they’re some of the most colorful in the world.

Memorial in Frankfort cemetery
This amazing work of art can be found at the cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany. Look at that gorgeous moss!

Getting there

The hike from my apartment in Centro to Cementerio Municipal in Playa del Carmen was fairly uneventful. I woke up early as it gets really hot and humid here in the summer. I remembered water this time! Go me! I can’t imagine having a disability here as the sidewalks are all kinds of crazy. You must watch your footing so you don’t step into a hole (or dog poop). You must watch your head as there are wires and low branches and muddy water raining down from people cleaning their balconies. Pay attention, people!!!

Made it to the cemetery and right away you could see that this was going to be good. They covered the walls leading onto the grounds in gorgeous art. So much color and care! Mexican cemeteries are places where families and friends can come and be with the spirit of their departed loved ones. They decorate them to be places that encourage visitors from both worlds. Bright and colorful and lovely.

Playa del Carmen's colorful cemetery
México has some of the most colorful cemeteries.

Cementerio Municipal has both above-ground monuments and memorial walls. They intricately designed some monuments to look like houses. There were even tiny yards and porches. Many with offerings set upon these to encourage the spirit of the dead to visit the family while they were there. The offerings are usually things that the person liked when they were alive, so you might see tequila or cookies or a photo of a fun place. And maybe some candles to help light the way.

So much color!

While the monuments were eye-catching, looking at the memorial walls, I noticed right away that 2020 and 2021 were clearly a terrible couple of years. So many died! It really snaps you back to reality. I know México did better than a lot of other countries, but they still got hit hard by COVID. Stupid pandemic!

Playa del Carmen's colorful cemetery
So much color! This cemetery in Playa is really special.

It was getting hot and while I brought water, I totally forgot bug repellent. Mosquitos! So many mosquitos! Time to go. I walked under the freeway for the trip back. It provides a ton of shade and there is some truly amazing street art under there. I’m always surprised how much effort people put into making Playa so colorful!

However, I forgot about the major intersections. There really aren’t any walking signs at the intersections and vehicles don’t stop for pedestrians. They barely stop for stop signs. Most times I can leap-frog my way with the help of a median. I cleared the first intersection that way, though I had to really run for it. No such luck at the second major intersection.

Street art under the freeway
The street art under the freeway is amazing!

You could die!

This one was like a giant roundabout, but with a five-foot drop from the sidewalk down to the street below. So if you made your way down to the road where the crosswalk was, the sidewalk blocks your sight of the cars coming around the corner. And they come fast! After a whole lot of “how the crap am I going to get out of this one!?!”, I finally just jumped down and took off across the street as fast as I could. No dying!

I will for sure be back to the cemetery around Day of the Dead. That’s when families and friends spend a lot of time decorating the monuments for their loved ones. I hear it is truly special and I’m excited to see. It’s all about celebrating the life that was lived and cherishing their memories. Such a beautiful culture.

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