Yuma, Arizona Cemetery
The Art of the Niche

October 2, 2004, it was finally cool enough to go outside and explore more hidden parts of Yuma. A coorespondant in England had shared pictures of old English gravestones from the 18th century and it reminded me of the cemetery I often pass. That site has long fascinated me. I was surprised to learn more about the cultural origins of this area, which is so close to the border. While I saw none from the 1700's, there was one gravesite which memorialized a person who died in 1900 and one which might have been 1827, however the date wasn't quite legible.

Many of the older stones were engraved in Spanish. Many of the sites feature a niche, something which is particular to Mexican-American culture. Grave decorating days are major social events for them. The biggest is the Día de los Muertos, when families have gravesite reunions featuring ornate altars filled with offerings of food and drink favored by the departed loved-ones. The gravesite niche allows special mementos to be placed in a sheltered space. Some feature a locked gate to further protect the items.

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© Joan Ann Lansberry