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for people who care about the West

The disappearing art of Southwestern cemeteries

A review of En Recuerdo de, a look at the afterlife of Mexican cemeteries in the West.

 

Some of the gravestones are crumbling. Some are illegible. All are imperfect. The camposantos, or Mexican cemeteries of the Southwest, get a close look in En Recuerdo de, Bruce F. Jordan’s collection of black-and-white photographs. Jordan documents a fading culture of cemetery craftsmanship, traveling through Texas, New Mexico and southern Colorado to capture the spirit of the old Mexican graveyards. Within the pages of En Recuerdo de, which means “in memory of,” Jordan wonders about the lives of the deceased and their families. 

The book draws links between the homogenization of cultures and the way this shift is expressed in the concept of the afterlife. Increasingly, Jordan writes, the once deeply personal cemeteries with their hand-hewn gravestones are becoming “characterless granite.” The photos, dark and full of shadows, highlight the drama of graveyards. The few light-colored objects — statues of the Virgin Mary, flowers, a pair of children’s shoes — stand out sharply, an offering from the living in memory of the dead.

En Recuerdo de: The Dying Art of Mexican Cemeteries in the Southwest
By Bruce F. Jordan, with essays by Martina Will de Chaparro and Tony Mares
176 pages, hardcover. $29.95. University of Nebraska Press, 2014.