Walking Among the Dead at Woodlawn

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Francisco Collazo and Julie Schwietert Collazo
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We’ve visited many cemeteries while traveling: the Petit Family Cemetery on the land where I grew up in South Carolina, where the graves of slaves are indicated with simple rocks.

Cementerio Colon in Havana, Cuba, where the sister of Francisco’s son is buried.

The local cemetery in Mompox, Colombia, at night, during a ceremony honoring the dead, candles flickering on tombstones and families holding hands, some crying, some talking quietly, some entirely silent and meditative.

The municipal cemetery in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where ostentatious monuments marking the final resting place of former governors and famous families draw attention from the old crypts, cracked open by decay, displaying bones on the back retaining wall of the cemetery.


New Orleans’ St. Louis Cemetery


a cemetery in southern Chile

It’s not that we have a fetish for the dead. But there’s something illustrative about a place, a culture, and its people that can be narrated without words when you visit a cemetery.
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Perhaps you’ve visited cemeteries on your travels, too, or stopped at the graves of the famous dead to honor them or simply say you’d been there.

But like us, you probably haven’t spent much time at the cemetery in your hometown.

Woodlawn Cemetery, one of New York City’s cemeteries, is located in the north Bronx in an area that was considered rural back in 1863, when the cemetery was founded. More than 300,000 people have been buried at Woodlawn since then, and many of them constitute a Who’s Who list of American public life.

We visited recently:


The tomb of Miles Davis


The mausoleum of Augustus Juilliard, founder of The Juilliard School


The tomb of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an abolitionist and advocate of women’s rights, famous for writing The Declaration of Sentiments


The tomb of Joseph Pulitzer, the so-called father of journalism. Founded Columbia University’s School of Journalism and the Pulitzer Prize.


The modest tomb of Ralph Bunche, who, among many other accomplishments, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950, the first African American to receive the honor.

What cemeteries have you visited on your travels and what have they taught you?