Hidden in modern suburbia, the historic Guadalupe Cemetery dates to 1904, around the time the first Yaqui Indians settled in the area. These gravesites tell stories through tributes and personal possessions left by loved ones. Many burst with colors, including flowers and other adornments. Burial mounds sit between a few mesquite trees and under brightly painted murals.
Due to unrest in their ancestral home in Mexico, the Yaqui established a church and graveyard on this site as their first settlement. However, after disputes over water rights, the settlement was moved to what is now the town of Guadalupe, about a mile and a half to the southwest. But the cemetery remained at the original site, and Guadalupe has buried its deceased at this site for over 100 years. Today, Guadalupe is home to more than 5,000 residents, mostly descendants of the Yaqui.
In the early 1980s, the suburban sprawl of metro Phoenix reached this area of Tempe. Replacing farmland, housing developers completely surrounded the cemetery with contemporary ranch homes with lush lawns, creating a strange juxtaposition with the cemetery.
The original church at the cemetery is no longer standing, but the impressive Our Lady of Guadalupe Church is worth a visit. About two miles from the cemetery, the church was built in 1914 and is the centerpiece of the town square.
Know Before You Go
The cemetery is open from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm and is still an active burial site, with many festivities on the Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead on Nov. 1 and 2). The cemetery is at 4649 S Beck Ave, Tempe, AZ 85282, but has no markers or signs until you reach the gates of the property.