Guadeloupe – Mortuary Rituals and Cemeteries

For some, the subject is delicate and sad while for others death is a gratefully commemorated event. Here in Guadeloupe, we honor the missing members of  the family.

There are a few styles of resting places: the “mini-houses” with porticoes, the ceramic huts placed above ground and sometimes, we bury under the sand and surround the location with shells. The conches are those large shells that in ancient times were used to announce a death in a village.

Several tombs and small houses are black and white. Interestingly, white is the color of mourning in Africa while Europeans use black. The marriage of the two colors is not imposed, but a personal choice which, goes without saying, evokes the origins.

You will surely notice the eternal resting places all over the island, near beaches, next to a church, or simply in a place that lends itself well to it. This is the case of one of the most popular cemeteries on the island, that of Morne-à-l’Eau, which is backed by a small hill allowing many graves to be seen from the street. Morne-à-l’Eau has nearly 1800 graves and a terminal allows you to search by name.

The cemetery next to Raisins-Clairs beach in Saint-François has a history that dates back more than a hundred years and would have been a cemetery for slaves and Indians whose access to the cemetery was refused at the side of the church.

All Saints Day, November 1, is celebrated plentifully by embellishing the premises by polishing the ceramics, adding flowers and lighting candles in the cemeteries. We come to gather with family, remember good times and even have a snack. Imagine a hillside, like that of Morne-à-l’Eau, illuminated on All Saints’ Day.  It is probably very rich in emotion and wonder. The following day is a public holiday in Guadeloupe.

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