San Pedro Cemetery is neither distinctly religious nor distinctly Peruvian. Breaking out of both molds, the cemetery in Ninacaca is bringing some new color and form to the deceased.
Instead of rows of headstones, and entirely lacking crosses, San Pedro Cemetery is filled with strange architectural models, a miniature city for the dead. There is no theme running throughout the cemetery, and the crowded monuments seem to allude to hundreds of styles, across every continent in the world. Peruvian cathedrals stand next to Kremlin-like structures across the row from Moorish influenced buildings.
Although the monuments are colorful and more playful than typical cemeteries, the origin of the tradition is heartbreaking. In 1989, a terrorist attack was launched against the village and the mayor was killed and a village leader was kidnapped. To commemorate the tragedies, the people of the town created a miniature replica of a school for a teacher that was murdered and the new tradition was born.
A standard monument costs between $250-$1000 and is built by local workers specifically for clients. Clients are allowed to choose their monument and dictate every detail of design. Most of the monuments reflect the heritage or beliefs of the deceased, which has been the impetus for the menagerie of architectural styles.
Although it began with a tragic event, the San Pedro Cemetery is now a beautiful celebration, and a colorful and evolving city of the dead.