Cemetery plots are purchased from la tesorería de la presidencia (town hall treasury department) because cemeteries belong to the municipality. Ground plots run about $18,000 pesos and a slot in the boveda (vault) costs $800 in Moroleon. After six years, the boveda or ground plot can be opened again and a second body can be put in if need be.
The cemetery in Cerano allows for one person to purchase the ground plot and two additional family members can be stacked on top in their own boveda. Babies and very young children can also be buried in the same area, usually in a small space in front of the main spot.
For example my husband’s cousin, is the body underground. Mama Vira is next and on top is Papa Rique. The cousin’s infant baby is in a little space in the ground, right in front because he died before his mother, otherwise he could have been buried with her. The plot is full up now and when someone else in the family dies, they will need to purchase a separate plot.
After five years, you need to pay a yearly fee that varies between $300 and $500 depending on the cemetery. When no one pays your space, you just might be dug up and put on display in el Museo de Las Momias. I’m not joking. If you aren’t put on display, your remains will be condensed or cremated and you’ll be moved to another area to make room for the more recently departed.
If you want to leave your cenizas (ashes) after cremation in the cemetery, some places have a columbario (columbarium) where you can deposit your urn. Otherwise, you can display the urn on your mantel if you like.
A body without the proper paperwork or unclaimed 72 hours after death is buried in la fosa común. Our neighbor, el plomero, narrowly escaped being buried in the pauper’s grave. His birth certificate and identification were stolen during his velorio, probably by the same person that stole his property certificate for his house in La Yacata. His wife had to request a new birth certificate to get the appropriate death papers otherwise he’d be thrown in that large anonymous pit. Since bodies must be buried between 24 and 48 hours after death, there was a bit of rush, but she pulled through and got him the proper identification to be buried.
The funeraria will often get the permit to open the grave/crypt all ready for you. It accompanies the body to the cemetery. However, you’ll have to pay the workmen to close up the grave. When we buried my mother-in-law, my husband and his brother requested permission to seal up the crypt as they were both bricklayers by trade, so that saved a little bit of money.
Sometimes, like in Cerano, you’ll need to pay someone to build the crypt itself. The panteón (cemetery) has workers on staff, however again, you’ll need to pay them. Often, someone close to the family, but not a relative offers to build the boveda. They may accept a token payment or refuse payment. You’ll then just need to pay for materials.
If you wish to add a lápida (headstone) or some sort of marker, you need permission for that as well. Those permits are given out at the main cemetery office and cost approximately $400 pesos. Plus, you’ll need to have a grave marker made at the marmoleria and they can get pretty pricey.
The little mausoleum made for the top of our nephew’s grave cost $15,000. On the other hand, you can do it yourself and just pay for materials. The front of my mother-in-law’s crypt was decorated with tile and a name plaque which cost about $1,500. You’ll still need to pay for the permit and make sure the adornment or structure meets the cemetery’s parameters for the plaque, monument, or marker.
There’s a yearly maintenance fee at most cemeteries. This ensures that the common areas are kept neat and tidy and special efforts are taken during at el Día de Muertos. You are responsible for the upkeep of your own dearly departed, however.
Some cemeteries have special sections reserved for gringos or children. Others allow families to buy up multiple plots and create a family mausoleum. Most, however, are on a first come, first served type of set up.
The plots on the ground in our local cemetery can not be set aside without the actual presence of a dead body. Otherwise, the wealthier would reserve their spots under the single mesquite tree and leave the rest to fight over what was left. You can, however, pay for a space ahead of time and when your time comes, you’ll get the next available slot either above or below ground.
As you can tell, dying doesn’t come cheap here in rural Mexico. And since it is an eventuality, perhaps you’d do best to set a little money aside so as not to be a burden to your family, unless you are ok with the la fosa común idea.