The City Cemetery's Customs and Artistry
The Mexican custom of El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is observed on November 2 each year. Also known as All Souls Day, the Catholic church day to remember the family's departed ones has been observed since the end of the 13th century. It follows All Saints Day, held on November 1, which commemorates the saints of the Church. All Saints Day was celebrated in medieval times as the eve of All Hallows (Halloween).
On Day of the Dead, family celebrations are held for the dead: cemeteries are cleaned, tombs are painted and adorned with flowers and candles, offerings are made at home altars, and picnics are held at cemeteries. According to former cemetery director, Rachael Aguilar, Laredo's citizens picnicked at City Cemetery through the 1950s, and today this special day continues to be observed as the graves are beautifully decorated.
The burial pattern in City Cemetery is east-west. The cerquitas (or fences) were often erected around individual burials. There was little concern for the introduction of permanent shrubs; however, a tree alley pattern along the cart ways is visible. This lack of formal cemetery shrubbery is offset by the highly elaborate floral decoration, including colorful wreaths, or vases with plastic, paper, or potted flowers.
Grave decoration and funerary art at the City Cemetery are reflective of Mexican-American traditions. A variety of art forms abound: relicaritos, or miniature shrines; glass covered nichos; shell ornamentation; cement crucifixes with hand carved inscription; and urns adorned with pottery shards, tile fragments, and marbles. Usually an effigy to the Virgin, a tiny crucifix, a candle, or some icon is placed within the miniature shrine. Within the open air nicho often is displayed a statue of the Virgin.
Early 20th Century Iron Cerquita & Hand Carved Wooden Latin Cross