Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Fr. Varela was born in Cuba but spent his childhood in St. Augustine, leaving for Cuba at the age of 16 to begin studies for the priesthood. The Seminario San Carlos was the seminary where Fr. Varela studied, was ordained and taught before leaving for the Spain to take his position in the Spanish Cortes [Legislature] in 1821. As we all know, things didn’t work out once he got to Spain, and it was from Spain that he went to the US. He never lived in Cuba again, although he maintained his interest in Cuban political thought and in Cuban independence. He was finally repatriated, in a sense, when his bones were returned to Cuba in 1911; his remains are now buried where he once taught.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Today was the 3rd Saturday of the month, so of course Tolomato Cemetery was open. The weather was awful – hot, muggy, and obviously the favorite weather of mosquitos and gnats, who were out in annoying clouds.
I thought we were going to have a slow day but I had underestimated the resilience of St Augustine visitors and locals, and we ended up with a total of 320 people who entered our gates. Most of them did the self-guided tours and many of them opted for the guided tours and seemed quite interested.
Nick McAuliffe had set out the historical photos he used in his June 29th presentation, so visitors could look at “then and now” photos at the very locations from which the photos were taken.
And perhaps we owed our success to a new addition: an 8 ft. banner hanging on the fence announcing “Tolomato Cemetery Open Today FREE!” Few things are free for tourists in St Augustine, so how could they resist?
Monday, July 4, 2011
Last week I was interviewed about Tolomato Cemetery on a local radio station, WFOY, and one of the hosts mentioned that he was surprised to learn of the existence of people whose hobby is visiting cemeteries. Judging by the websites and newsletters I have found, he’d really be surprised if he knew how many of these people there are out there, roaming the graveyards of this country and any other place they visit.
Tolomato is a tiny cemetery so we don’t get many cemetery buffs, as they are called, although this may change as word gets out that we are now open on a regular basis (3rd Saturday of every month).
In any case, to give you an idea of the potential, one of our members was trolling through cemetery websites and found “The Cemetery Club,” a website run by Illinois author and cemetery expert Minda Powers-Douglas. The website (click on the link above) has great information and is also the gateway to Epitaphs Magazine Online (EMO), a really excellent on-line journal that contains articles on a wide variety of cemetery related topics. The magazine is also available from lulu.com in print format.
If you have always wondered about the painted skulls of Austria, go to the current edition of EMO and find out everything you need to know. For those who have been dreaming of having their skulls painted, the practice was halted a number of years ago because of superstitions that grew up around the skulls, such as the idea that skulls could predict the winning lottery numbers!