I had a deep desire of visiting the Cornish graveyard in Hidalgo since I was a teenage girl. My friend had gifted me some beautiful, analog photographs he took of this graveyard and I was enthralled. Thirteen years later, I finally found myself walking through the English dead and their interesting stories.
BLESSED ARE THE DEAD WHO DIE IN THE LORD
The English Graveyard located in a small town called Real del Monte in Hidalgo, México; was constructed on top of a cold, foggy hill. It’s oldest grave dates back to 1834. Many English burial customs remained even in Mexican soil. Ancient Celtic funeral rites, Anglican traditions and Masonic elements can be found on the tombs. All the graves are positioned looking towards England, except for one that belongs to a rebel clown called Richard Bell.
There are around 300 mine laborers buried under gravestones that don’t have statues or names. These people traveled from Europe to Hidalgo in order to work and die, with-out families that could reclaim their bodies or graves.
Many tiny tombs were built from 1850 to 1851 due to a Cholera epidemic that took many children’s lives. Even a premature burial took place in this graveyard. But among the many eerie stories, there is a famous tragedy often compared to Shakespeare’s work.
There’s a large Angel sculpture made from Italian marble that belongs to a lady called Helen, who was only 21. She was born from the union of a Mexican woman and a racist English man. The father wanted her to marry an English man but Helen was already in love with a native young lad. Her dad didn’t approve of her relationship claiming ”I’d rather see you dead, than marrying a Mexican”.
The young and desperate Helen planned her suicide alongside his Mexican lover for only in death they could love each other, eternally. However, when their last day arrived, her lover backed off from the plan and she quickly took her pistol to kill him. The next bullet was housed in her body and so her father had to bury (her homicidal) daughter.
There was a graveyard keeper who was also the grave digger known as Don Chencho. Inocencio Hernandez Lara was respected and well known. He lived next to the graveyard and worked with great affection for half a century, sharing stories of those who rest there in exchange of a single coin.
According to those who met him; Don Chencho was a passionate grumpy old man that unlike his fellow townspeople, never judged the artsy driven goths that visited the cemetery in order to practice their portraiture allure. He would even open the gates for you at night, when you just wanted to go for a calm stroll at the burial ground.
In 2005 Queen Elizabeth II named Don Chencho, Sir Inocencio Hernandez Lara. He died in 2011. The graveyard has been part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site since 2013. Prince Charles visited Real del Monte’s graveyard during the Day of the Dead celebrations in 2014. As a result, the graveyard rose from it’s darkness, becoming a very frequented place. It’s politics changed quite harshly too, since local government was to take over during April 2017.
Over 755 corpses lie in this graveyard. All of them are European except for one, Sir Inocencio ”Don Chencho” Hernandez Lara. He became the first Mexican to be buried in the graveyard. His legacy remains alive with his daughter, María del Carmen Hernández Skewes who now opens the gates to those who visit.
Sir Inocencio ”Don Chencho” Hernandez Lara’s grave
Her father must be proud as she even surpassed his innate raconteur skills. She gives exceptionally, comprehensive tour guides where she talks about the funeral rites and symbolisms in the beautiful marble architecture; narrating the stories of those lying there as well as their spectres.
If you ever find yourself in Hidalgo and are drawn into gravewalking then this is definitely a place you should experience. ♥
Post dedicated to María del Carmen Hernández Skewes