The Cemitério do Araça on Avenida Doutoro Arnaldo near the center of town is the final resting place of many of the important and long-present families of Sao Paulo, as well as of the police officers who have died in action. Established in 1887, it flows for three blocks across the top of the hill, and then drops down a multitude of levels, each with a million-dollar view of the Sao Paulo skyline.

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The rows of crypts look like European city streets. Very odd, and a bit charming. (Though, I have to admit, I am more a fan of lawn and headstones than I am of crypts. Far less spooky. This place reminded me of Oradour sur Glen, a ruined city that we used to visit when I was a child living in France. Signs of previous life, but now, witness only to death.)

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Most of the cemetery consists of family crypts, often featuring photo-on-stone images of those interred within.

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Others have the traditional statuary…

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or busts of the dearly departed (here, reminding me of Jacob Marley).

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And several have their own tiny chapels, within which are the remains of the departed.

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As with many large cemeteries, some of the sites are in disrepair, such as these with a long-fallen tree obstructing access to the tombs.

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We found several crypts that are now empty, shorn of family names and photos, and a few with bags of bones sitting on the concrete shelving. In some of these empty tombs are signs of habitation, with ashes of fires and the trash of daily living. We suspect that there are people who now take refuge in these tombs, especially when the weather turns inclement.

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Seeing the tombs, I’m more certain than ever that I shall opt for cremation (making my wishes known ahead of time, of course). I would prefer a memorial stone to indicate my life here on Earth, without the indignity of someone some time in the future pushing my bones aside in order to build a life-sustaining fire. Remember me as I was, and then, let’s move on.