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Dead Men Don’t Tell Tales

by sanmigueltimes
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Recently I was approached in front of Bonanza by a former hiking pal very excited with a new twist on my cemetery tours.  Here he had experienced what I use to take my kids on around the South, plays in cemeteries.  Basically, actors pop out from behind tombstones and present mini-plays on events important in that person’s life.  It’s a gothic, and fun, way to learn a bit of history often acted out by local Social Studies teachers.

Honestly, I never thought about doing that here in San Miguel.  My first thoughts were economic knowing if I were to pay Mexican actors that spoke English my cemetery tour would greatly increase in price while decreasing the flexibility in timing.

Coming in second was the thought that our cemetery is a living cemetery.  Meaning folks buried there have descendants still in town paying their tomb taxes and welcoming back the deceased over Day of the Dead.  Most Mexicans have no interest in making their lives, or their ancestors’ lives, particularly interesting to foreigners and the notion felt like a huge invasion of privacy.  My tours focus on Day of the Dead and how a culture treats their dead is both their legacy and a reflection of how they live their lives.

(Photo: Joseph Toone)
(Photo: Joseph Toone)

My unvoiced concerns were totally off the mark as my pal didn’t consider for a moment talking about Mexicans, his thought was folks would want to hear the life stories of gringos buried in the cordoned off gringo section.  I visit the gringo section on every tour as it does make our cemetery unique including a section only for foreigners but it is a tour footnote.  Folks come to learn about Mexican history and culture, not the long ago antics of an ex-pat.

Plus, as I told my pal, we’ve only one D-list celebrity resident there, a bronze winning figure skating from Canada that only folks of an age, and from Canada, know of.  Even Stirling Dickinson, from the US, that built local art colleges after World War 2 opening us up to visitors from the States is completely unknown by visitors.

(Photo: Joseph Toone)
(Photo: Joseph Toone)

“Oh no” my pal persisted “Foreigners come to town to know about ex-pats that had once come to San Miguel.”  I told him I would ponder the notion knowing his world view on the importance of ex-pats to San Miguel was self-indulgent.  Foreigners come to town, and tour the cemetery, to learn Mexican history and culture.  What a handful of ex-pats did or didn’t do is of zero interest unless, of course, it includes a witty epithet.  One of my favorites beings the niche tomb next to Stirling Dickinson’s ashes where the gal states, alongside her name and dates, “I’ve finally found my niche.”

By Joseph Toone


Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series.  All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays.  Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA.  Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkingTours.com, and JosephTooneTours.com.


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