SAN JUAN – The mayor of San Juan, Miguel Romero Lugo reacted on Monday, to complaints about the poor condition of the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzi Cemetery.
“It is general knowledge that the vast majority of public facilities and facilities in San Juan remained in total and complete abandonment, including all the cemeteries in the Municipality. The Santa María Magdalena de Pazzi cemetery located in Old San Juan was no exception.
From the first day we took over the reins of San Juan, we have given ourselves the task of rescuing all our infrastructure and facilities from the aforementioned abandonment; from parks without energy and maintenance, auditoriums and our municipal cemeteries.
On May 19, 2021, I appeared with the director of the Department of Operations and Ornato, the Municipal Police and administration personnel of the cemeteries to inspect the damage. After said inspection, it was decided to carry out work to improve lighting by repairing the electrical system and also for the installation of cameras that were integrated into the police operations center (known as COPÓ) and thus provide better surveillance, especially in the night when vandalism occurs. In the same way, the process of receiving quotes for the repair of damages has already begun, ”said Romero Lugo in written statements.
The actress Cordelia González denounced the precariousness and abandonment of the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzi Cemetery.
Here is the open letter to the governor and mayor of San Juan from the actress Cordelia González:
Open Letter to Hon. Pedro Pierluisi, Governor of Puerto Rico and Hon. Miguel Romero, Mayor of San Juan:
On May 8, 2021, the day before Mother’s Sunday, the grave of my grandmother Abigail Díaz Alfaro was desecrated. Abigaíl is buried with her husband, Gilberto Concepción de Gracia, founder of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, in the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzi cemetery in Old San Juan.
In the desecrated tomb we also find the urn that contained the ashes of Gilberto Manuel Concepción Suárez in pieces, his ashes scattered over his father’s grave.
In another area of the cemetery, I found the grave of my great-uncle, Abelardo Díaz Alfaro, a famous Puerto Rican writer, also in pieces.
I do not have to explain the deep pain felt, not only because they are our loved ones, but because they are Puerto Ricans who exalted the name of Puerto Rico and today their memory and the immense legacy they left are desecrated.
There are dozens of graves desecrated and too many families affected. This is unacceptable.
The abandonment of the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzi Cemetery is shameful. A cemetery where there are so many important figures of our country; a cemetery where, since the end of the 19th century, the remains of many Puerto Ricans from our community, Old San Juan and La Perla, have rested. Cemetery that today seems like a battlefield where impunity and lack of respect reign.
Currently, the Cemetery does not have any type of lighting. Since the passage of Hurricane María, the great spotlights that illuminated it from the walls of El Morro have remained and are still lying there. The lanterns on the path that leads to the interior of the cemetery are all broken and there is no one standing in the place to ensure the safety of the surroundings.
The day I went to see what had happened, I was able to observe a worker in a T-shirt from the Municipality of San Juan, who spent his working hours feeding a score of chickens, roosters and cats that have taken over the place.
However, there are others who work and do what they can with what little resources they have. I thank Dani, the gravedigger, who kept the ceramic bust of Abelardo’s face and gave it to me on the day of my visit. Dani had found it on the ground, one morning when she got to work, next to the desecrated grave.
As I left the cemetery, I wept at the thought that not even our dead can rest in peace.
I call on the Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, the Mayor of San Juan, Miguel Romero, and the people of Puerto Rico to unite to restore, protect, and care for the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzi Cemetery.
In a press release dated May 12, 2021, FEMA announced the award of $ 7.8 million to restore old buildings in Old San Juan. In particular, it granted 2.7 million for various cemeteries in San Juan, among which the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzi Cemetery is specifically mentioned. The funds are available, you just need the will to do the right thing.
Let us honor our ancestors, do not allow them to fall into oblivion.
A country that does not respect its past has no future.
Cordelia González Buitrago