Human Interest

A ghost cemetery at the end of the world, devoid of life or death

By José Carlos Rodríguez

Fisterra, Spain, Nov 1 (EFE).- In the westernmost reaches of mainland Spain, where the Romans believed the world ended, there is a cemetery devoid of life or death.

Here, in Galicia’s far flung Cape Finisterre, granite cubes rise out of the ground, a host of empty tombs that blend into the landscape.

A political cadaver, the cemetery has never been put to use in the 25 years since its construction and now mainly serves as an attraction for passing tourists and pilgrims.

The project, designed by prize-winning architect César Portela, was approved by the Finisterre town council in 1997 under the then socialist mayor Ernesto Insua.

Lying on the interior slope of Cape Finisterre (known locally as Cabo Fisterra) some 2 kilometers from the town, the cemetery looks out to sea, back over to Spain, in an area exposed to the wind and rain typical of the Atlantic region.

“The first thing I wanted to offer the dead was the rest they deserve in a sublime location where the architecture was able to merge positively with nature, the same they have always done in that place, the earth, the sea and the sky,” the architect explains on his website.

Contrary to the traditional idea of a walled-in necropolis adorned with crosses, Portela’s concept comprises a network of paths winding through 14 granite cubes containing the cemetery niches.

The first three blocks, which were originally intended to be a funeral home, chapel and autopsy room, are now covered with weeds.

Although the original idea was for nature to be part of the environment, political apathy has allowed it to completely reclaim the space.

A series of Fisterra mayors have come and gone. None have followed through with the inauguration of the 300,000-euro project.

The current mayor, José Marcote, returned to the idea when he was re-elected in 2019 but, although the only resources required to open the complex are water and electricity, it remains paralyzed to this day.

“At the beginning there were budget problems to finish off the work, but these could have been resolved like any other project. The work has to be finished. If there is a problem with the budget, then what you have to do is fix it and find a solution,” Marcote tells Efe.

According to Marcote, there was socio-political opposition to the cemetery.

Many Fisterra residents believe it is too far away from the town and too modern compared to the more traditional graveyard at the Santa María das Areas church.

Marcote believes that the social opposition was “an excuse” that was used “politically.”

Opinions in the town are undoubtedly split.

Segundo López, a local resident, says “money has been thrown away” and that Portela’s cemetery is deteriorating and “useless.”

“I don’t think anyone will go. There were people from here in the town who went to bury (people) in another parish,” he says, adding that the “ideal” plan would be to build a cemetery in an area next to the town church where there is now an old football pitch.

However, Carmen Estévez, a volunteer with the local parish, wants the project to be finished.

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