jardines-del-recuerdo
Jardines del Recuerdo cemetery

QCOSTARICA – Cemeteries in the Central Valley are entering a crisis, exemplified by La Nacion reporting the municipal cemetery in San Sebastian has had a sign for some years: “No Crypts for Rent (No hay nichos para alquiler, in Spanish).”

And since rainfall in the country, much like New Orleans in the United States, simply makes burial in the earth impossible.

The crypts are rented for five years there. Afterwards, the body is exhumed for reburial — in a common crypt if the family does not have the money to buy a permanent, private site. It is simply a matter of the living taking up space for the dead in urban glut.

La Nacion surveyed six cemeteries in the Central Valley containing space for 1.182 bodies: Corazón de Jesús, Calvo, Uruca Sur, San Sebastián, Pavas and Zapote. Only 54 spaces remain available. Sagrado Corazon is in the best shape with 29 but Pavas is in the same situation as San Sebastian. Two years ago, the latter created 108 more but all are taken.

The crisis in family vaults is even worse.

Gustavo Salazar, chief of cemetries for the San Jose Municipality told La Nacion, “The worst is that there are few options and we have to set aside some lots in case of a national disaster. There are no lots in San Jose with the right characteristics and the price of them would be sky high.”

The report says that family crypts are a frustration for cemetery administrators. Some are in bad shape and others are simply abandoned by the families which have either died out, moved out of country or aren’t using the space. Adrian Bonilla who manages cemeteries in Heredia canton says the legality of taking over an abandoned crypts needs study.

San Jose metropolitan cemetery on Avenida 10
San Jose metropolitan cemetery on Avenida 10

Salazar considers his job of interring the dead with dignity not only a public service but a part of public health for the bereaved. And it is getting harder to do that with Costa Rica’s demographics growing steadily older.

The problem is also being lived in smaller municipalities, like in Goicoechea, where Guadalupe‘s central cemetery filled its quota over ten years ago. The municipality opened the El Redentor cemetery in the Purral district, with 1,500 plots. We get people from other places demanding space. People from Moravia, Coronado and Sabanilla looking for a place after bring told that there are none where they live “said Aracelly González, Administrator of the Board of Cemeteries Goicoechea. In fact we already are looking to find another lot with the necessary characteristics,” he added.