“A cemetery is not necessary, the deceased live in our memory”

The Gran Canarian palms



The Palm live one more year on All Saints’ Day without four of its parishes and without several of its cemeteries. The one in Las Manchas, the municipal cemetery of Los Llanos de Aridane, has the lava at the door, protected so far by the Cogote mountain with the wash just 500 meters away. There will be no flower offerings, no prayers, no Eucharists or gravestones to visit, but there will be community, faith, and a day of honoring loved ones who left and have their eternal rest in this cemetery on the brink of being buried by the wash. «Let’s trust the volcano won’t take it away», Says the priest of Las Manchas, Alberto Hernández.

Neighbors who have family and friends buried there, facing the risk of their disappearance as a result of the fury of the volcano, feel «as if their loved ones died again», Says Hernández, for a few weeks, a parish priest without a Church. «It is not like that, if the lava takes it away they will be a little more buried than until now, but that is only the biological remains», the deceased are alive «in our hearts and in our memory, in the memories» and there, no they will never die.

Flowers, candles and prayer

In the Plaza de España, in the center of the Llanos de Aridane, a monument collects the more than 5,000 names of those who are buried in the Las Manchas cemetery, on a collective tombstone that serves to remember those who remain in their eternal rest in this corner on the volcano road. The event, ‘El Rincón de la Memoria’, as it has been called and which takes place today, It is a meeting and prayer point to be able to «remember the deceased, leave flowers, a candle or a prayer according to what each one wants and feels». Faced with the threat of lava, the idea is “to try to bring it somehow closer to where people can go” and to celebrate “this special and important day.”

It is a very difficult day, “there are those who go every week, and it comforts them to have a place where they can approach those who are no longer there, where to bring flowers and where to talk with them”, but for days “I have been trying to get the message across you don’t need a cemetery to remember our loved ones »because the important thing« is what they lived with us, the memories and the moments, the effort they made to make us who we are today ». Some understand it, for others there is no consolation. “A cemetery is where it is and cannot be moved, and if the lava takes it away, it will be the decision of nature, because you cannot fight against a volcano,” says Alberto Hernández.

A family on an island

Father Hernández knows well that the volcano always wins, he has seen the Church of Todoque fall, a symbol of the town, just as he has buried its other three parishes. The Church of La Laguna has the lava a few meters away, remember, but this parish priest is no longer concerned about the temples, but about the neighbors. Alberto regrets not having “any operative parish” since “all of them are affected». The one in Todoque has disappeared, La Laguna has lava at its doorstep “and we don’t know what fate will run,” and in Las Manchas and Puerto Naos they are in an exclusion zone buried by ash and inaccessible.

Instead, a «big family»Of parishioners still stronger than ever. He celebrates mass in a chapel ceded in the parent parish dedicated to the Virgin of Fátima in El Retamal, and around it the feeling of a people that remains suspended in time awaiting the decision of the volcano is maintained. «It is very important to continue celebrating them because it is an opportunity to meet and for them to meet and spend a while together» and so «do not lose your identity and the connection between neighbors». The Eucharist is “an appointment to feel as a family and to meet again” even though they are now scattered in different parts of the island.

“They miss each other a lot”, he assures, and although they maintain ties, this is a different situation for neighbors who “were born and raised together” and are ties that can be seen “in how they hug each other and how they cry together and comfort each other. ». They “are not just neighbors, they are family,” and that is the magic of these towns, always “with the doors open and the coffee pot on the fire.” He is one more neighbor, evacuated from the rectory. “I also had to empty my house and also the temples, I live in a house that is not mine”, but he assures that within the difficult circumstance that all the neighbors live “I am reasonably well.”

Let no one fall

The neighbors “They call me every day and ask me how I am, they tell me how they are». And it is that «they are pending of the smallest details» and that «sustains me». He adds that they make him feel “comforted and that I am one more in this great family,” which is a safety net so that no one falls, no one surrenders and the people of La Palma continue to stand despite the blows of the volcano. “In this we are all in the same boat, and it is time to support each other” because “we suffered the consequences of this volcano together” and he is convinced that together they will also get out of it.

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