New Orleans Cemetaries
**Note: we have been out of touch for the past couple of weeks because of unreliable wifi access while in Cuba. We are now going to catch up on some postings that we didn't have time to complete prior to traveling to Cuba, plus what we experienced while in this Caribbean nation.
While we may be a bit "... Long in the tooth" , we don't feel we have "...one foot in the grave" ( at least not yet!) . Soon, ...with that being said , one might wonder at our fascination with old graveyards. We can learn a lot about the history of a culture while exploring how they bury their dead. For instance, long before Katrina, flooding of cemeteries was common in New Orleans, causing many caskets to pop-out of the ground. It then became the responsibility of relatives to search for their loved ones and rebury them. Thus, became the tradition of building above ground tombs and mausoleums in these "...cities of the dead." Some of these are quite ornate, indicating the relative wealth of the owners. Many are built in stages, like steps. Most have two shelves for burials. After one year and one day (because one didn't want to proceed with the process on the actual anniversary date of the original burial) the casket is then removed and discarded. The bones of the deceased are then dropped into a lower level beneath the shelves, making room for new burials. In one instance, we were told that as many as 84 people were accommodated in one tomb. If more than two members of a family died at the same time, relatives could rent a wall tomb until space opened up. One issue we didn't anticipate was crime within graveyards. Because of the relative ease of breaking into tombs (as opposed to digging up plots, grave robbing of family heirlooms has been on the rise. Who would have guessed? As a result, freely roaming through Cemetaries in New Orleans is discouraged by only allowing guided tours (for a fee of course).
Still, this was a fascinating way of experiencing some of New Orleans' back stories.
...as well as looking like steps.
Not all tombs are "family" burials. Some are set aside for members of certain society groups. This one is for members of an Italian society.
Wall vaults are available for rent in the case when more than two family members died in the same year.
Maintenance of graves are the responsibility of the family. When costs of an elaborate tomb is more than a family can afford, the use of stones to prevent caskets from floating up during floods is acceptable. If their are no family members left to maintain the gavesite, the state can take over, but it is a difficult task, , requiring extensive research to make sure there really are no family members.