You are wandering along Old San Juan’s Atlantic coastline and fortress wall between San Cristobal and San Felipe’s El Morro castles, in Puerto Rico, taking in the magnificent ocean vistas, and suddenly you stop. Everything. Completely. Your mind, already in travel vacation mode, further escapes the daily infernal pace it has come accustomed to. Your body comes to a halt.
From your hilltop observatory, peeking through the evenly distanced niches in the wall that protected this strategically positioned island and its city from pirates and colonizing countries in the past, you stare, stunned by the beauty of a vast piece of the coastline covered with white marble crosses brightened by the hot Caribbean sun, against the saturated vivid blue sky above and the deep blue ocean below.
You just laid your eyes upon Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis, Old San Juan’s Cemetery, which was built in the early 1800’s just below El Morro’s lighthouse. This is where Puerto Rico’s most preeminent people, whether politicians, artists, singers or actors were interred.
That is how I felt upon discovering this seaside cemetery. I felt drawn towards the numerous sculpted statues and ornate headstones that I could distinguish from above. Camera in hand, I had to find the entrance. You need to continue to the beginning of the lawn in front of El Morro, and you will see a small road that passes underground, and leads to the arched front gate of Old San Juan’s cemetery. Walk carefully through the graffiti filled tunnel in the curve, as there is no visibility.
The artfully crafted religious statues were impressive in size and number, and their skillfully carved expressions moved my spiritual being.
Some of these are veritable monuments to the legacy of the loved ones interred here, as this particular one.
And this beautiful one, which holds the inscription: “No lloreis, rogad por mi, voy a unir me con dios, yos espero en el cielo.” From Spanish translates to: “Do not weep, pray for me, as I am with God, and wait for you in heaven.”
White Marble Crosses Standing Still Against the Perpetual Moving Ocean
The white crosses against the moving sea, all the different symbolism that one could feel through these visions; perpetual movement of the ocean -where water is symbol and necessity to Life- meets the sacred place where time stands still, where heartbeats stop… The magnificence of nature, the cycle of Life… The bright colors… a sense that all of this is so beautiful. For a moment, I pause.
The Guardian Angels of Old San Juan’s Cemetery
Meet here some of the amazingly beautiful winged angels, forever guardians of the final resting place that is Old San Juan’s Cemetery. A feeling of gratitude overwhelms me, for those angels that look over my family and me.
I know… could not resist another shot of this beautifully winged angel.
As I leave the cemetery, the rotunda shaped Chapel of Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis stands colorful under the watch of El Morro’s citadel lighthouse.
As I finally arrive to Old San Juan’s hilltop fortress, I glance down once again onto the colorful Chapel of Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis and Old San Juan’s amazing coastal cemetery.
Safety tip for women traveling alone, solo traveler or single woman:
Although there is no safety issue by day, as there are many tourists in and around the cemetery, do not venture in or around the cemetery after nightfall. The poor neighborhood of Old San Juan, “La Perla”, notoriously the street crime slums of Puerto Rico’s capital, is situated along the coast just before the cemetery. Check Puerto Rico’s governmental and official tourist web sites for further safety information in San Juan and on the island.
And as always, when visiting a religious sanctuary – church, temple, mosque, shrine, or cemetery – of any religious belief around the world, please be mindful and respectful. Lower your voice if you really have to talk, modestly cover your shoulders or head if you are asked to, and be careful where you walk. And PLEASE… shut down your darn cell phones!
I hope you have enjoyed this photo visit. Tell my readers and myself in your comments below of your personal experience when visiting Old San Juan’s Cemetery in Puerto Rico, or similar sites that moved you emotionally around the world. I would love to read about it 🙂
By Aimée Fawn, Wanderlust Addict
– Also known as “The Cruising Gal” per her experience cruising the seven seas, and as “La_Voyageuse” globetrotting on Twitter, but mostly as “The girl laughing with the glass of wine in her hand” 😉