Though it isn’t the 30 pages that I promised Diva, here is an excerpt from my travel diary:
The air in Chilecito was crisp and we walked around the town checking in and asking about various things: where to eat, where to look for property, where to buy artesanias, what we could visit and how. I’m not big on visiting things and I was very happy to just chill out and join Juan and Lysa as they explored the neighborhoods looking at plots of land. We walked up and down the streets, until we came to a very cheerful looking Cemetery. Lisa was a bit worried about living right by the cemetery because of the spirits. “You shouldn’t worry so much about the spirits from the cemetery,” I said, “It’s the spirits from outside the cemetery that you should watch out for” I joked.
The cemetery was kitschy: no graves, only tombs painted all kinds of colors with brass ornaments and other gaudy accouterments. In the center of the cemetery is a completely unnecessary overlarge 40 foot cross. As I explored the place, looking for photo opportunities, I heard voices of visiting relatives. I felt strange taking pictures of peoples’ intimate things. I tried to avoid the visitors because I imagined I might be a little worried if I saw someone taking a picture of my mother’s grave. It gave me a weird feeling to gawk at the finery of the dead, especially as I was taking my photos ironically. As it was, the disembodied voices were always just around the corner, but never “caught me in the act”.
Far in the back was a bent cast iron gate, a thing out of place in this garish world of pink houses. Through the gate, I could see only a wasteland of rocks and dirt, which I found out later was an ancient incan burial ground. From where we stood it looked desolate, as if the tombs were beautiful shops in which the spirits work and at night they go home to the slums in which they really live. Or perhaps there are neighborhoods of spirits and we are in the nice rich neighborhood, looking out at the wasteland of poverty like a twisted mirror of the world of the living.
“This place is dead,” Lysa half jokes, and she and Juan start leaving through the central path. I follow a bit behind and as I reach the central cross I find three young women standing by it. They cannot be more than 18 years old.
“I can’t check out the 18 year old girls in a cemetery.” I think. “That’s just wrong.”
As I approach I lower my eyes respectfully. And with the look of the Recoleta cemetary’s cats they wait for me, watching my every movement with interest lazy. Just as I pass, one says, “Chau” in a seductive voice. “Chau” I mumble as I stumble off. I had the most distinct impression that these maidens of the cemetery were just that, and I walked away without looking back.