The Cementerio Central in Bogotá was opened in 1836, shortly after Colombia’s break from Spain. Since then, it has been the final resting place for presidents, poets, and nameless civilians alike.
The sprawling avenues and streets of the cemetery are crowded with elaborate mausoleums spanning the country’s history. Although heads of state have been interred here since Colombia’s beginning, two of the most visited graves are those of children and a beermaker.
Offerings of sweets and white flowers crowd the grave of the young Bodmer sisters, who died of a strange disease in 1903. Legend has it that the children’s mother visited the cemetery and asked that her youngest child - a son that was also afflicted - would be spared. He was. Since then the sisters have been celebrated as angels and healers, visited to this day by people praying for the health of children.
Another popular grave is that of Leo Siegfried Kopp, an entrepreneur who emigrated from Germany to found Bavaria - which became one of the biggest breweries in the world. Known for his financial success, generous philanthropy, and care for his employees, he has continued to be celebrated and even worshipped since his death in 1927. The businessman’s grave is topped with a replica of Rodin’s Thinker and believers come to whisper their secrets, hopes, and dreams in the statue’s golden ear. As both a freemason and a Jew, Kopp is an unlikely choice of de-facto saint in a deeply Catholic country. But in Colombia, the birthplace of magic realism, there’s enough mythic glimmer to go around.