Fotografía: Tania Victoria/ Secretaría de Cultura de la Ciudad de México
The Panteón Civil de Dolores is the largest cemetery in Mexico. It takes up an enormous space between the second and third section of Chapultepec Park. Within the grounds, are an endless array of graves, sculptures, carvings, mausoleums, and funerary artefacts. One of the most famous areas is a Rotonda de los Personas Ilustres, literally the “Rotunda of Illustrious Persons,” although any list of famous Mexico City residents buried in the cemetery is quite impressive.
The history of the site begins with the Civil Reformation in 19th century, when all cemeteries were controlled by the church. Permission to build this one came from the Mexican Government, a first, and was granted to the Benfield, Brecker Company in 1874. The land as part of Benfield’s ranch had been called the Tabla de Dolores, something like “Field of Sorrows,” from which the cemetery took its name. The government purchased the plot in 1879, and since then it has been a public cemetery. No new graves have been assigned since 1975 as space simply ran out.
The Rotonda de los Personas Ilustres is the final resting place for painters and artists, like David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, María Izquierdo, Gerardo Murillo “Dr. Atl” and Juand O’Gorman. There are also some very distinguished musicians like singer and composer Ángela Peralta, Manuel M. Ponce, Agustín Lara, José Pablo Moncayo, and Silvestre Revueltas. Diplomats and poets have their places, among them Ignacio Manuel Altamirano, Rosario Castellanos, Amalia González Caballero, Ramón López Velarde, Jaime Torres Bodet and Emma Godoy. The actresses Virginia Fabregas and Dolores del Río have their places here. And military and political leaders include the now nearly forgotten Pablo Letechípia, the first person to be buried within the Rotunda, and the anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón.
The cemetery is open from Thursday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s often included in a trip to other locations within Chapultepec Park.