My day began unlike any other I had experienced at Salinas de Guaranda. After a simple breakfast of a boiled egg and tea, I struck out for yet another day of burning music for the local radio station. But I wasn’t met with the usual grey, dreary sky. No rain coated my jacket. I looked up and saw for the first time in millennia a clear, beautiful, blue sky. Children ran past my on my short journey to work, the roads were dry and dusty, the hills looked alive and full, and the rooftops shone sunlight directly into Vitamin D deficient eyes. Unfortunately, this wonderous experience was soon cut short as I entered the small radio station, subjected to another day of morally questionable activities. However, as I was adding my 47th CD of music to the vast library on the radio station’s PC, my boss interrupted my work. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to notice that today had been blessed by a plethora of generous deities. He beckoned me outside, down the street and around the corner to the local cemetery, which, ironically, was full of life. The sun warmed my body as the scene that played out in front of me warmed my heart. I could not begin to describe the splendor of that cemetery, so perhaps it would be best to instead show you.
Dozens of individuals, locals as well as volunteers, collaborated in a massive effort to clean and maintain this sacred place for the upcoming holiday, Día de los Muertos. To emphasize this, I was able to take photos of a variety of persons doing a variety of tasks. For instance, right by the gates of the cemetery Padre Antonio, a very influential individual here in Salinas, was cleaning out patches of land by various graves.
Right outside the cemetery, a group of local women took it upon themselves to give the walls a fresh new coat of paint. Directly below, you can see volunteers Davide, Nayeli, and a couple children on top of a wall of cement and caskets, cleaning the roof that shelters the dead.
So, I joined the community in this wonderful project. I swept paths, hauled branches, collected rocks and weeds, and did whatever was needed to make the place look even more breathtaking. The amount of work I saw being put into this activity highlighted the importance the people here place on their dead. Someone brought a chainsaw to help cut down overgrown branches, another brought their truck to take the cut down branches elsewhere. After a few hours, free soda, pork rinds, and empanadas were provided to anyone who helped. Even the police showed up, just to help out and make sure everything went smoothly. This truly was the culmination of dozens of community member’s efforts, leaving the impression that this was something the people of Salinas cared about deeply. But I didn’t even need to see these various acts be played out to realize this. If I were to visit the cemetery before this particular day, I would have been met with the following sight. (Albeit less sunny)
Even before the collaborative effort to clean the cemetery, many family members would bring flowers and gifts to their deceased loved ones. The graves were always cleaned and marked with beautiful engravings and messages. All of these data, of the community coming together, of individual families taking good care of these graves, presented the vast importance that this cemetery has for this community. Even more than that, it showed the importance that the community placed on acting together as a community. I feel like this one sunny day in Salinas showed an entirely different side of the small town, and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.