El Panteon de Belen, Guadalajara

When you’re in Guadalajara don’t miss a visit to the El Panteon de Belen behind the Civil Hospital – Guadalajara’s oldest cemetery.  Why visit a cemetery?  Death is a real part of Mexico’s culture – the Fiesta de Los Muertos is a truly Mexican experience no one should miss out on!  Mexico celebrates everything – even death!  And El Panteon de Belen is a photographer’s dream!

El  Panteon de Belen was the vision of Fray Antonio Alcalde and even though building started in 1786 it wasn’t completed until 1844 by Architect Manuel Gomez Ibarra – the mastermind of the historic towers of the Guadalajara cathedral. The Panteon was closed in October 1896 and now it’s a museum.

You might be thinking: “What’s the big deal about a El Panteon de Belen?  I never expected to find beauty in a burial ground but as I wandered through the grounds I saw three young Mexican women decked out in fancy prom dresses posing on ornate, dilapidated gravestones. The 3 beauties were celebrating their quincentario’s – their15th birthday – an joyous family event that transforms young girls into women.

James Johnston and Jean Young came to Guadalalara in the mid-80’s and apparently were kind benefactors to the citizens of Guadalajara.  Locals have been visiting their gravesite since the 1890’s praying for miracles.  Rumour has it if you say a prayer at noon and leave a prayer card or candle you will receive a miracle.

If you are a brave soul visit the Panteon at night and hear the eerie sound of a bouncing ball.  Apparently it’s the spirit of a young boy playing with toys left for him over the years by visitants to his graveside. My favourite time to visit is at the end of October when you can partake in an eerie Fiesta de los Muertos (Feast of the Dead) celebration.