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Beltrí, nuns and a cemetery

Cartagena is loaded with Art Nouveau buildings and Victor Beltri was the architect behind a good number of the best ones. 2012 will be the 150th anniversary of his birth and there is a committee organising events to celebrate his life and works.

The cemetery or Cementerio de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios is on the outskirts of Cartagena. It was put there, far away from the town centre, so that the stench of rotting flesh didn't upset anyone important. I don't suppose that cemeteries are a hygiene risk anymore but if they were I suspect nobody would care too much as the neighbourhood closest to the cemetery looks like it's full of poor people. Poor people and drug dealers we were told.

There was a lot of mining money in Cartagena at the end of the 19th and the start of the 20th Century. Rich and powerful families were keen to have tombs that showed their wealth. Many of them employed Beltri to build their mausoleums. Then there was a bit of an economic crash and lots of that wealth just disappeared. No spare money to keep the tombs spick and span.

The Little Sisters of the Poor asked someone from the Beltrí committee or fan club to organise a tour around the cemetery. Today was the day. The donations would go to the Little Sisters to support their work with old people.

It was an interesting visit but perhaps a bit less exciting than I'd hoped for. Nowadays I can usually cope with Spanish but there are any number of counter indicators. The main one is me. If I decide I can't understand or that the situation is in some way difficult then I won't understand and I will begin to swear to myself and retreat into my shell. Some of the counter indicators though are very real and beyond my control. They're the sort of things that cause me problems in English too - stuff like the levels of background noise or incredibly strong accents or maybe just lack of interest. There were enough counter indicators today for me to start to switch off so I probably missed all the best stuff.

The Mausoleum in the photo is for the Pedreño family, a mine owner and 19th Century politician. The building was actually designed by Carlos Mancha rather than Beltrí. Lots more pictures in my December album.


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