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?

Remembering New Orleans

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Francisco Collazo & Julie Schwietert Collazo

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In June 2008 Francisco and I went to New Orleans to work with the Culinary Corps, a voluntourism organization I profiled in this article.

It was Francisco’s first time in the city and my third, but for both of us, it was our first post-Katrina visit and we were astounded by the amount of recovery work that still needed to be done. The photos below are from that visit.
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New Orleans’ Charity Hospital, closed after Katrina.

A tattered American flag that hadn’t been replaced, three years after the hurricane.

What do you do when your country hasn’t listened to you?

If even City Hall hasn’t been razed or rehabbed, what can we possibly expect for the rest of the city?

It’s always striking how some fragile items remain intact.

A house “tattooed” with search, rescue, and recovery information.

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To see the rest of our New Orleans photos, visit our New Orleans album on Flickr.

Other articles we’ve written about New Orleans:

*Top 6 Volunteer Experiences in New Orleans

*Top 10 Reasons to Travel to New Orleans NOW

*5 Tips for a New Orleans Escape

Passports With Purpose

Text & Photos: Julie Schwietert Collazo

Francisco and I are always interested in people who are able to transform an amazing idea into an even more amazing project that makes a tangible, positive difference in people’s lives.

So we’re proud to be participating in Passports With Purpose, which starts today and runs through the end of December.

Passports with Purpose is the idea of four travel bloggers who got together for coffee and a chat about how they wanted to use the blogging platform to support a cause they all cared about.

A few hours later, they’d mapped out a plan: they’d contact their readers, fellow bloggers, former employers, and other people in their vast networks, and engage them to participate in a raffle, with all proceeds going to the organization, Heifer International.

Heifer International is a cause we’re happy to get behind, as the organization is committed to ending hunger through sustainable, poverty-fighting practices.

All the prizes in the Passports with Purpose raffle are donated, all raffle tickets cost $10, and all transactions take place online through the site First Giving.

Right now, 49 different prize packs, ranging in value from $20 to more than $400, are up for grabs; raffle winners will be drawn on December 29 and notified on December 30.

To support the project, Francisco is offering a cooking class and dinner for four to raffle participants from New York City!

If you didn’t already know this, Francisco is a private chef. This year alone he has cooked his way around Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and New York, teaching cooking classes or making amazing meals in kitchens as diverse as the Whole Foods Culinary Center, Villa Sevilla, Casa Amarilla , and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

To win, just visit this page and look for the code that matches Francisco’s prize pack. Then, make your donation through First Giving, and be sure to enter that code!

Questions? Leave a note in the comments below!

Do You Roux?

In just a few days, Francisco and I will be headed to New Orleans, where we’ll be joining up with the Culinary Corps, “The Peace Corps for Cooks.”

Francisco will be forming part of the Corps’ chef team, working with local cooks, restauranteurs, volunteers, students, and community members, while I document the group’s work and share other stories from New Orleans.

In preparation for the trip, which will focus primarily on local foods, Francisco stood over the stove with a whisk and practiced his roux-making skills this evening. Roux is a mandatory skill for New Orleans chefs, and his first try–prepping the roux for a gumbo of okra, andouille sausage, and chicken–was a success, turning the color of a long-worn wedding band, just as writer Sara Roahen says a good roux should.

As each new ingredient was added to the gumbo, the kitchen was infused with a different smell, and after the ingredient had a chance to marry with the gumbo, Francisco crossed the length of the kitchen floor with a steaming spoon of the simmering Louisiana stew as I sat at the dining room table and typed. “Try it now,” he said, smiling a little bit bigger each time.

In the coming days, we’ll be posting some pre-New Orleans news, but in the meantime, be sure to visit Christine Carroll’s Culinary Corps website and learn more about this fantastic organization. If you are as impressed as we are by the passion and vision Christine brings to her work in New Orleans and the world, please consider making a donation of any amount to Culinary Corps by visiting Firstgiving.

Photo: Zeal Harris (creative commons)