We're generally trying to avoid other white people because they speak English and we're trying to learn Spanish, but this morning's Breakfast With Gringos provides valuable information from an elegantly frail New Yorker:
"The crypt under the cathedral is open today. They only open it once per year for the Day of the Dead."
There is now no question what we'll do this afternoon. The cathedral and its adjacent garden plaza serve as the city's central hub of activity, generally always open to the public. The location of the crypt entrance becomes immediately clear after a short walk through the building.
But it's roped off so we sit on a pew and wait. Two workers slide under the barricade, then they can be seen near the bottom of the stairs running a vacuum cleaner and repairing a light switch. Returning an hour later, the ropes are gone and we descend. The passageway contains an odd seemingly bottomless hole in the ground, and it's connected to another passageway with bars and a padlock that apparently leads back up to the alter.
While I'm initially disappointed that the main part of the crypt mostly consists of a single open room, my disappointment is short lived. The atmosphere here is unmistakably "crypt", despite the lack of narrow passageways lined with loose skulls and piles of random bones. Sealed compartments in the walls are filled with the remains of priests and a president of decades and centuries past. A musty smell pervades.
The grave adornments on the walls would be appropriate as Halloween decorations back in my native land. There are skulls and crossbones that may or may not be real. The teeth look real at least. The swastikas in one corner provide an even more unusual twist. "That's because alot of Nazi's escaped here after the war", I quietly joke with my companions.
While exiting the crypt, I focus my attention on that mysterious hole in the floor between two flights of stairs. It's big enough to stick a hand in and deep enough that the bottom is not visible. Adjacent to the hole is a painted black board covering a larger hole where several stones are missing.
Ever careful not to drop my phone, I turn its light on and slip my hand down into the unknown hole. Underneath is a uniform square compartment of about six feet on all sides. To see the corners of the space I must put my face nearly all the way to the floor. This is what I see:
It a rotten infant's coffin and headstone, saying that the box contains the remains of a 15-month old baby who died in 1979.
This post and photographs were created by Kiarga Agraik.
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