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      Here Lies a Bunch of Mexican Drug Dealers

      April 1, 2011

      By Javier Angulo

      Photos by Gladys Serrano
      Translated by Bernardo Garcia

      Posters featuring photographs of the deceased are ubiquitous throughout Humaya.

      The tombs of Jardines del Humaya in the Mexican state of Sinaloa seem to have been inspired by the great pyramids of Egypt. Both sites were built to symbolize the ascent of powerful rulers to heaven, but in Humaya’s case most of the departed oversaw a kingdom of illegal drugs and extreme violence.

      Located on the outskirts of Culiacán, the largest city in Sinaloa, this cemetery is the site of grandiose mausoleums that resemble one-bedroom apartments with gaudy elevated domes. Land is sold in blocks of 3.6 by 7.4 feet, the standard size of a Mexican coffin. A popular purchase is three blocks, which sells for about 30 thousand pesos (approximately $2,500). Some of the larger properties even include recreational areas where children can safely play during family visits. Those who commission these structures are willing to spend whatever it takes to ensure that their patriarchs—some politicians and businessmen but mostly Sinaloa’s most infamous traffickers of narcotics—spend the afterlife in a place that reflects their unsustainable lifestyles. If this requires installing central air conditioning and a kitchenette, so be it.


      One-upmanship has gotten out of hand in Humaya. Families continually try to build bigger structures than their neighbors, a morbid version of keeping up with the Joneses.

      According to Walkyria Angulo, the only expert in the funerary architecture of the region, the eccentricities of these constructions have a very logical explanation: People are bringing the city to the cemetery. “In Culiacán, those building mausoleums tend to copy what they see with the local houses,” she said. “The mix only exists here. It defies categorization.” About five years ago, a hodgepodge minimalist trend began that embraced austere forms and rounded ironwork. The only common theme is the use of marble and acrylic domes, and spending exorbitant amounts of money on the finishing, sculptures, and lighting. Walkyria estimated that one of the more expensive gravesites cost at least 5 million pesos (around $420,000).
       

        In recent years, mausoleum architects have imitated the minimalist trend of modern homes, but extravagant elements like enclosed stairs define a style that is only found here.





       

      The most impressive and elaborate memorials are located deep within the burial grounds, and from the outside the site resembles a modern suburb inspired by chapel architecture. It’s common to spot luxury SUVs parked in front of mausoleums or roaming the streets that divide the structures. The tombs are both garish and thoughtful, prompting one to ponder the gruesome and myriad ways in which these individuals lost their lives and visits to gawk at their legacies.

      Some might find it excessive to entomb a loved one inside a two-story edifice covered in plants—roses, dahlias, daisies, and other decorative flowers are frequently arranged along the perimeter—but the celebration of overabundance is precisely the point. Mexico has a rich history of commemorating the dead by celebrating life, and it’s no exception here. Parties with live music that last for days are frequent occurrences on birthdays, novenas, and the Day of the Dead. The festivities are so abundant that local event planners offer to decorate tombs and coordinate truly Dionysian gatherings for the average cost of 35,000 pesos (approximately $3,000), which includes lighting, landscaping, altars, and customized themes. If the departed was a gambler, for instance, his parties might be casino-themed and include a roulette wheel and a craps table. If he particularly enjoyed a certain dish, his family and friends will serve a plate for him at the altar and replace it whenever it becomes stale. But even these indulgences cannot ensure that the residents of Jardines del Humaya will ever be able to rest in peace.


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