Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cemeteries of Valpo

Perhaps the best places keeping a cultural record on the population make up inhabiting any town through time are the public cemeteries. Valparaiso keeps 4 historical cementeries recording the passing away of their citizens. 3 were operative in two hill sections of town during the last quarter of the XIX century. 2 of them dating back to 1820s, being officially recognised when the local governor Juan Melgarejo inaugurated their earlier buildings, settling in that way the first public cementery outside catholic church grounds in Chile at the top of the Panteon Hill. Of course, for that age segregation occurred quickly and soon three cemeteries emerged, two public for catholics and another private for no catholics.
One of these older cemeteries is the so called Cementerio de disidentes (non conformist non catholic) where most of the earlier british anglican and german lutheran citizens of Valparaiso started to be buried. Here is where most of the earlier traditional celtic crosses for british subjects are found. Later on, the local german community of Valpo bought their own walled quarter at the larger public cemetery 3 of Playa Ancha Hill where traditional germanic gravestone work is preserved. I started to look after the cemeteries because they keep the best historical record of stonework in different rock materials such as sandtone, granite, diorite, marbles, etc. that came along with cobblestones as ballast weight in sailing ships from all over the world to build the streets and buildings of Valparaiso.