The General Cemetery in Santiago, Chile is believed to hold some 2 million burials and is one of the largest cemeteries in Latin America.
Founded in 1821, just after the country won independence, it was thought that in creating a public space where the remains of Chilean citizens and heroes could be honored, the general population would develop a common memory and thus a sense of patriotism.
The cemetery’s overall design was intended as a city for the dead. Cobble stone streets and sidewalks, neat rows of trees and shrubbery, were thought to reflect a metropolitan atmosphere that could be enjoyed by the expired residents and its living visitors.
Chileans take guided tours, day and evening options are available, to stroll the tightly winding streets and visit graves of Chilean figures, like independence leader Bernardo O’Higgins and folk singer and activist Victor Jara. Additionally, every Chilean president, with the exception of Gabriel González and Pinochet, have made their final resting place here—the most visited memorial is that of former president Allende.
As in most cemeteries across the world, this one is packed with the crumbling tombs and glossy headstones: monuments to man’s fixation with immortality.
Here too you’ll find a very clear demarkation of class–between the burials of the very wealthy and poor, Santiago’s high society and its commoners.
Chile’s social elite spared no expense to construct grandiose mini-mansions, made of marble or granite and complete with roman columns and golden saints.
In turn, middle and lower classes citizens are filed away in these modest, compact-shelving units.