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  HOME | Bolivia

Pandemic Limits Tradition of Visiting Bolivia’s ‘Forgotten Souls’



SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia – The tradition of visiting the “forgotten souls,” people who do not know where they were buried, lived on Monday in a cemetery in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz with restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which left several believers out of the churchyard.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus Cemetery, also called La Cuchilla as it is located in the homonymous neighborhood of Santa Cruz, has had a space known as “the cemetery of forgotten souls” for two decades dedicated to the deceased buried in unknown places, mass graves or in other Bolivian regions.

A huge white wooden cross located in the heart of the cemetery warns visitors that they are in the square of these souls.

The first Monday of August and the Day of the Dead in November are the dates chosen by the people who come en masse to leave their offerings, which can be food, flowers, drinks or candles, for someone who died and wasn’t able to say goodbye, or is buried elsewhere.

Other people, especially merchants, also come with offerings to the “churchyard of forgotten souls” to ask that they grant them good health and prosperity in their businesses.

Turnout on Monday was not as massive as other years, due to the restrictions imposed for the quarantine against COVID-19, which prevent crowds.

For this reason, only a few people could approach the churchyard while many were left upset outside the cemetery unable to leave their offerings.

Santa Cruz is the largest city in Bolivia, with more than 1.5 million inhabitants, and also the most affected by the pandemic, with 1,153 deaths and 34,972 infections in the region of which it is the capital, according to the most recent report by the Ministry of Health.

The national total in Bolivia, which has about 11.5 million inhabitants, is of 3,153 deaths and 80,153 infections with COVID-19 since the first cases were registered in March.

Santa Cruz, along with El Alto, La Paz and Cochabamba, has reported cases of health centers being saturated by the increase in patients and cemeteries that have had to urgently expand their space to receive more deaths from the disease.

 

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