Marstrand Continuum, Part I

Part One Of My Family Story. Marstrand, Sweden. The Soderbergs immigrate to Los Angeles, California from Sweden.
It is a rock. It is an island. Pre-historic man established abode here. Viking Age seafarers found the dual entrance deep harbor

much to their liking. The waters were rich with herring; and the herring made this Swedish west coast island rich. In

1658 Carlsten fortress was built atop the rock to protect the assets. Before yielding prominence to the towns of Kunglav

and Goteborg, Marstrand was the hub of trade and commerce.


Then change. The Herring population declined. Modern roads, rails and communications largely by passed Marstrand. She had to reinvent herself.


Marstrand’s Varmbadhus BÃ¥tellet. 1856 began a new direction for Marstrand. People came to relax and enjoy the theraputic warm water baths. The Island’s ion rich air and water were also highly touted for health benefits.

In 1887 Societetshuset was built. An invitation was extended to King Oscar II to visit and enjoy this beautiful social hall. To come and spend a summer in Marstrand. To bring his yacht. The King fell in love with Marstrand, as anyone might. He made it his annual summer destination.

King Oscar (that’s his bust atop the post) brought with him a flush of new activity. Dances, receptions, concerts and evening entertainment became standard fare.

Cold water baths became part of the Marstrand “therapy.” Swimming, sunbathing, and hiking are also part of the resume. However its most famous attraction is sailing. During the summertime national and international sailing championships, as well as regattas, are held.

The city plot or grid dates back to medieval times. A fire or two rolled through from century to century. But the charming architecture seen today is largely from the late 19th and early 20th century. Quaint houses and beautiful structures line the narrow cobblestone streets. No cars or traffic here. It is pedestrian heaven. Grand Hotel is on the left. City Hall is straight ahead at the top of the street.

The Island is one mile in diameter. You arrive via ferry; the ride lasts only a couple of minutes. An array of fine shops and eateries are immediately accessible.

The western two thirds of the island is undeveloped. Tucked between the large smooth rocks and in all the cracks are beautiful rare maritime plants. The ocean and archipelago views are magnificent.


Each entrance to the harbor saw a fortified outpost (the structure on the left and the wall). The vault of that structure was used in 1780 as a synagogue. The first in Scandinavia.

It was in 1783 that the first-ever revolving lighthouse light was erected at Marstrand.

There is another first to mention. Marstrand Electric was Sweden’s first municipal electric company.

My great grandfather, (My father’s side of the family), August Palm–seated right–had lived in Malmo as an electrical engineer at a prominent hotel.

Apparently a fully wired Marstrand presented opportunity for August and his wife Alma (seated middle). He went to work for the electric company and bought a large two story house in Marstrand.
That’s my great great grandmother, seated left. But I’m not sure if she belongs to August or Alma. (I think she’s Alma’s Mom) The girl is Margit, daughter of August and Alma. And my grandmother’s sister.

The house not only served as their residence, but as a functioning element of Marstrand’s tourist economy. What we call today a “bed and breakfast.”


The former Palm residence today. Undergoing remodel work. As I captured this image a gentleman named Oskar asked about my interest in the house. I mentioned the name Palm, and that my grandmother Gunhild lived here as a teenager. Oskar moved to Marstrand in 1972. He said, “I once knew an owner of that house. I have been to many a party there. Some I remember. Some I never remembered, beginning next day.”
I mentioned Gunhild in her teens was known to have played tennis with The King, Gustav V, up at Carlsten’s Fortress.

“The king was a bit famous for that,” he said. “Young was his preference. Maybe check; you might have Royal Blood!”

As Gunhild may have appeared after tennis with The King. As a child her nickname was Gulli, meaning gold, for her hair. This photo was taken Midsommer, 1918

Gustav Söderberg, 1918. He’s standing a top a WWI Submarine. He served in the Swedish Navy.
Both Gustav Söderberg and Gunhild Palm were born in Malmo, Sweden. It is not known when or where they met.

However, writing on the back of the above photo indicates it was taken in Marstrand. In any event, they married and in 1920 were parents of Bill Söderberg. The name Bill was chosen after she read a novel with a character named Bill. William was not the name chosen.

Bill in Marstrand. Gunhild, Alma and Bill’s great grandma.

Economic Times, worldwide–the 1920’s were difficult. Agriculture, coal mining, textiles, shoes, shipbuilding and railroads were all in decline. One factor in Sweden, among others then, it had an agrarian economy in the midst of a strong population growth. With so much of the country made of solid rock, agriculture was hard to expand. Young healthy Swede’s immigrated. In the later 19th and early 20th century 1.9 million Swedes immigrated to the U.S.

Swedes kept together upon moving to the U.S. Western Illinois, Iowa, central Texas, southern Minnesota, and western Wisconsin all sprouted sizable enclaves of Swedes. Some filtered to southern California.

We can only speculate why Gustav and Gunhild Söderberg chose Los Angeles. As a carpenter and house builder, perhaps he had read about the housing boom in Los Angeles. Perhaps  her experience in Sweden with some musicals and stage productions, Gunhild may have felt the draw of Hollywood.

Declaration

The choice may have simply been connected with where Gustav’s port of entry to the U.S. was. He came through San Pedro in Los Angeles on September 2, 1921. We knew Gustav came in advance of Gunhild and Bill.  And it was assumed he came through Ellis Island, as the two had on done later on March 6, 1923. But where was the record? Swedish family member Nicklas Rydberg provided the missing document above.

Bill wrote: “We were pushed onto the streets of New York City, unable to speak the language. And no idea of where to catch the Greyhound Bus to Hollywood, California.

“My Dad had made the trip a year earlier to build a house for us to live in. When we arrived the framing of the house was up and I think it was ready for the roof. But we had to live in a tent, cook over a camp fire, and make do with an out-house.”


Youthful happy faces showing optimism for a life in their new country.

“My mother soon came down with typhoid fever and was in the hospital for what seemed like life time to me. Meanwhile I was sent to live with some long time friends, the Andersens–also from Sweden, while my Dad finished the house; and while my Mother recovered from the fever.

SoderbergsRoadside

I don’t recall Bill ever mentioning a period of prosperity and well being during this early period of his life. However the history learned by Nicklas Rydberg in Sweden describes Gustav being proud of his professional accomplishments and financial achievements in the United States. “Gustav himself bragged about how well off he was and how much money he made. He owned a big and expensive car; a Bugatti.”

Bill&Gustav as Smart Object-1

Gustav Söderberg and Bill. Well appointed beach attire, from head to toe.

GusGunBill

If there was no idea that Gustav drove a Bugatti, then this photo might nott completely make sense. Gustav wearing a driving coat? Or simply the sweater seen in the previous photo. Either way nice clothes. Not cheap.

Bill_Gustav

Gustav and Bill during happier times.Gustav and Bill during happier times.

 

“Swedish was spoken at home. Even by second grade, my English was still not very good–the kids all made fun of the way I talked.”

Bill was held back one grade until his language skills improved.

Gustav_Bungalow

 

Further work needs to be done find the address of the house on Veteran and Olympic. This is possibly one of the homes Gustav built. A house number is slightly legible.

The family home Gustav built was on Veteran and Olympic Boulevards in West Los Angeles. Olympic Boulevard was originally 10th Street; the name changed in 1928 as Los Angeles was bidding for the Olympics which came in 1932.

Bill remembered playing in the middle of Pico Boulevard catching “horny toe lizards.” He said Olympic Boulevard was mostly waist-high weeds growing through cracks in the pavement.

Weeds growing on what is today a busy street may have said much about the worsening economy the young Soderbergs faced. 1926/1927 saw a sharp decline in construction. By the end of 1928 all construction came to a grinding halt. That amounted to $2 billion dollars no longer moving through the economy. Gustav wasn’t paid for his work. His own bills went unpaid. Gustav must have felt desperation. He proposed moving.

Gunhild was not receptive to that proposal. She had enough of moving and was not about to start over again.

“It was too hard getting into this country, and we’re not leaving.”

Bill wrote that the last time Bill heard from his father was via a birthday card sent from Brazil, 1927. He believed and said his father finally settled in Australia. Greta had also been told that Gustav went to Australia where he became a Communist and an alcoholic.

Two people with accurate information read this blog and have help correct the history presented. One is Berit Härén in Stockholm. She informed me that Gustav returned to Sweden. Gustav Helge and Gunhild were divorced through California divorce
court on Nov. 10, 1932. (Bill was 12 years old). In 1935 Gustav Helge remarried to Magnhild Viktoria at Johannes parish, Stockholm in a civil service. Not known to Bill, he would have a half sister in Sweden and as well as Greta in the U.S.

maggangustav1935

Other information and photos come from Gustav’s Swedish grandson Nicklas Rydberg (my newly found cousin) Nicklas described Gustav as a man with strident political beliefs, and he confirmed Gustav was indeed a devout Communist. “My mother confirmed,” he wrote,  “my memory of stories of Gustav arguing his political views and making enemies on the way. My mother tells it was hard to grow up in small country society with a dad like that.”

But more about Gustav later. Back to the story in Los Angeles.

Gunhild and Bill were alone and had to abandon, and actually walk away from, their home in West Los Angeles. Bill often spoke of the long hike they made with their suitcases along weedy Olympic Boulevard to downtown Los Angeles as a homeless family.

A kindly group of women observed their plight. They opened their doors to shelter and care for them until Gunhild was able to fend for her herself. These kind people were a Madame and her Girls.

 

The next installments of Marstrand Continuum: Depression Era life in Downtown Los Angeles. Gunhild Remarries.
Bill gets a sister, Greta. Bad news from Sweden. Gunhild and Greta must visit Marstrand. A life in Sweden. Getting trapped in Sweden by the developing world war. Escape. Fast forward to 2006–Greta returns to Marstrand for the first time since her escape in 1940. Stay tuned!

Wiener Secession

As mentioned in my previous entry on Ljubljana, the Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik was a student of the Austrian architect Otto Wagner (1841-1918).
Wagner produced not only fine buildings but urban plans as well. In 1890 he produced a new city plan for Vienna. The ambitious work, however, only materialized in one phase. The Stadtbahn, Vienna’s urban rail network. The stations he designed are still in use today. Functional as ever; beautiful to look at.

The Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station is the most recognized and iconic jewel of the system.

Karlsplatz Studtbahn Station (1894-1902) Detail


Karlsplatz, detail

Karlsplatz, detail

In 1897 Wagner co-founded the Vienna Sucessionsts, a group of designers, architects and artists dedicated to a new modernity of design. Pure, simple functional lines. New materials and new forms with a strong tendency to naturalistic motifs. Art Nouveau architect Josef Hoffman was also in this group along with designer Kolomon Moser, and painter Gustav Klimt.

Here is the Majolikahouse Wagner designed and built, 1898-1899


Majolikahouse, balcony detail.


This is a sister to Majolikahouse. The two buildings stand side by side on Linke Wienzeile, Vienna. Back in the day both structures were commonly regarded as “hideous beyond measure.”

Another Vienna Sucessionist co-founder was architect Joseph Olbrich. He designed the Sucession Exhibit Hall, above, in 1898.

Frank Lloyd Wright biographer Brendan Gill spends more than a few pages of essay about this building’s relationship with Wright’s 1905 landmark Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois.

Wright was never one to say “I took someone’s great idea and improved on it.” He rarely tipped his hat to any influence on his work. As a Guest Of Honor before a gathering of renown architects in Berlin, 1905, Wright must have bristled upon being introduced as “The American Olbrich.” His only outward reaction was to say this aroused his curiosity and that he’d have to discover what Olbrich and his work were all about–knowing full well Olbrich’s stature.

Olbrich died at age 41. Wright still had 50 years of career ahead of him and much of his legacy yet to be written.

Detail, Wiener Sucession Exhibit Hall

Detail, Unity Temple

Olbrich’s signature stone at Sucessionist Exhibit Hall. Wright used a red signature tile on his works.

Unity Temple, Oak Park, Illinois, 1905

Vertical lines, Unity Temple, above; Karlsplatz, below.


Karlsplatz (Wagner). The clock above foyer entrance.

Unity Temple Lighting details. Natural and incandescent indirect light.

Karlsplatz barrel ceiling detail and light element.

Lovely Ljubljana

There was a coffee house in San Diego/Hillcrest called Euphoria. It enjoyed a popular run before the lease expired and the proprietors relocated in North Park with a new title and clientelle. But Euphoria had a diverse following. It seemed to attract more than a share of European visitors.
This is where I met Andrej and Bostjan of Slovenia. We shared a table for coffee one afternoon. And met again on different occasions. Then I began showing them around town.
Andrej, though only in his mid twenties, was a noted physician specializing in diabetes. A real life Dougie Howser. He was in San Diego attending a world conference on Diabetes, and making presentations.
Bostjan was about the same age, but still in medical school and doing internship.
They invited me to Slovenia, to their home town and national capitol, Ljubljana.


Ljubljana has the charming looks of many renown European capitals, but enjoys a slower–yet energetic–pace with a population of only 300,000 or so.


Ljubljana’s mythological dragon made habitat at the near by lake. He was slain by Jason and The Argonauts. They were in possession of the stolen golden fleece when the encounter occurred. Today the dragon guards a town bridge.

A river runs through it. Providing the town a lot reflective beauty. With close proximity to Venice, Italy, the Italian influence is evident in the architecture. Not to mention the many Italian favorites on eatery menus.

The Market Arcades were designed by Slovenia’s best known and loved architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957). He was a student of Otto Wagner in Vienna. Three cities in particular showcase his best work. Vienna, Prague and Ljubljana.


The City has many fine examples of Art Nouveau

Looking up to Ljubljana Castle. Digs reveal this site has been active since the 12th Century B.C. Fortification began in Illyrian and Celtic times. On through Roman Times and beyond. The tour I took with Andrej showed how the castle became more of a hunting lodge for European royalty. The interior walls are laden with heads of various beasts taken for prize.

That’s not exactly a close up. But that’s my host, Andrej.


There’s The Lake. Former home of The Dragon


Now the summer play ground for other species of monsters.

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A city of charming architecture. That’s a freshly polished copper clad roof.


A quiet morning. But later the streets are busy. And city residents love their sidewalk cafe lifestyle.

London Town Fun

On May 10, 2006 I kept an appointment. An appearance in London at 8 A.M. on the live Earthcam situated at Covent Garden. That was 4 P.M. London Time. The middle left photo below shows the webcam view (Ken Garrett downloaded my actual appearance, but it vanished in my e-mail files.) The middle right image is my snapshot of the same location. Then below you see the webcam itself, to the right of the upright support.
Covent Garden, with its markets, cafes, and street performers is a favorite hangout in London.

The piazza shown in the top photo dates from 1632. The reference on one building is to the Punch and Judy shows observed and documented here by Samuel Pepys in 1662.

Covent Garden was originally, in fact, a Convent Garden of the Westminster Abbey monks.

Vegetable fields and fruit trees flourished here from 1536. I missed any explanation of why the “n” was dropped to make Covent Garden the name. Being as neither garden or convent remain any way.

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London’s Eye, The Millennium Wheel, is currently the world’s tallest observation structure of its kind. It soars to 443 feet on the South Bank of River Thames.

The stark facade of the Tate Modern Museum. The Spartan feel is from a design that was originally the Bankside Power Station. The some 20,000 sq ft of interior space became a selling point for converting to a museum, beginning with its funding in 1996.

The enterance and foyer of the Tate Modern.


The Cambridge Pub, Cappuccetto’s, and SoupWorks at Leicester Square, above. Also, Bar Soho.

A view of rooftops and chimneys as seen from an above leg of the Underground.

Views from The Underground.

London is a sea of suits. Men dress for work. And if any respectable English Gentleman should forget, he is reminded to adjust his dress before leaving the WC.

Faces

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Aksel is a law student in Göteborg but he works in Marstrand during the summer tourist season.

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Young Arvid stops to smile while scooting about Marstrand on his razor scooter.

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Emrik is removing candle wax at the enterance to Restaurang Högvakten, one of the many historic eateries in Marstrand.

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Lady in Red, London

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Naked Lunch, Copenhagen. Christiania, Copenhagen’s commune like enclave founded by hippies, performance artists and misc. social misfits has been under attack for several years by conservative politicians. These are young residents of that community staging a provocative protest against the latest points of conflict between themselves, law makers and law enforcement. Police quietly stood by to make sure there were no problems between the friendly protesters and the gawking on lookers. Attitudes about such public nudity are vastly different in Scandinavia and Europe than in the U.S.

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A young resident of Christiania

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This lad’s special talent in walking around naked, but on his hands. Do I dare post a picture of that?

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This is Copenhagen’s Black Diamond, a modern building on the waterfront housing The Danish Royal Library. Mondays are rough for young construction workers needing to make up for lost sleep during the weekend.
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Love in Copenhagen

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Love in Amsterdam.  Twilight at 11:00 P.M.

Reflection

Sunrise in Scandinavia comes early in the day during summer. This is of benefit when photo shooting. Having views of scenery before clutter of pedestrian, bicycle and auto traffic. A low sun catches color on buildings. And if breezeless, mirror like reflections shine in the vast reaches of Copenhagen’s waterways.

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Eat’m 12/2/06


The EAT’m Diner blog for 12/02/06: Birria in Guadalajara, French Dip Sandwich, Los Angeles
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Each region of Mexico boasts its own unique distinct food or dish. A specialty of Guadalajara is Birria, a savory stew typically made with goat, pork, lamb or sheep. The sauce is a blend of spices, chili, and cumin. This stew bakes hours before it is dinner table ready.


The twin specialty of the region is Borrego. This is lamb or sheep slow roasted for hours over glowing hot wood embers.

Birrieria Las Nueve Esquinas near downtown Guadalajara offers Chivo (Goat) Birria and Barbocoa de Borrego as their main menu items. This kitchen-dining room is charmingly decorated with indigenous pottery and earthen ware hanging on bright color walls trimmed in tile. Folk crafts decorate the window.

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When traveling to Los Angeles, a stop at Philippe, The Original French Dip Sandwich Restaurant, is mandatory.
Their legend states “French Dip” was innovated when a French sandwich bun fell into the juices or drippings of roasted meat pan. The customer, impatient for his sandwich, vetoed making the sandwich over again. His discovery was so thrilling the man returned the next day with a legion of his co workers for exactly the same accidental taste treat.

The sandwich is available with roast beef, pork, lamb or turkey. I never know which one I like best. I’ll often sample a couple. Philippe’s mustard is their own, not restaurant supply. I always dab some on my sandwich. And frequently experience a nasal rush. A cold beer works best for me accompanying this meal. But the lemonade is renown. I’m always undecided whether to go with cole slaw or potato salad. Some times if I return to the counter for that second or third sandwich I’ll have both.

Twisted Tails of Copenhagen


Few spires are this beautiful or unique. Borsen–the old Copenhagen Stock Exchange. Hans Van Steenwinckle was the architect. Rundetaarn, shown in my previous essay, was also designed by him. It is a Dragonspire he created in 1625 for the Stock Exchange Building.

The tails of four dragons are twisted together in symbolic guardianship. This twining is a statement of strength. But the architect achieved a lightness and grace with the open chamber just below his dragons.

Death By Inconsolable Shame


The spiral or circular ramp. These have fascinated architects and their clients through centuries.

Rundetaarn (The Round Tower) 1642 of Copenhagen, Denmark has a ramp some 685 feet long spiraling around a hollow core. King Christian IV rode up and down this ramp with a horse and carriage. Home to Europe’s oldest functioning observatory, which sets a top with the viewing platform. A haven for scientists, intellectuals and teachers.

An inscription on the side is a rebus or code. “Lead, God, into the heart of King Christian IV The Right Teaching and Justice, 1642.” The tower is over 114 feet tall with a view of old Copenhagen that is a pleasure to behold.


The spires of old town Copenhagen stand like sentinels. They seem to call and speak to one another.

 

The spires of old town Copenhagen stand like sentinels. They seem to call and speak to one another.

The spires of old town Copenhagen stand like sentinels. They seem to call and speak to one another.

In view from Rundetaarn is another spiral design, The Church Of Our Savior, 1752.

There is a tragic legend of this tower’s architect, Laurids de Thurah. Spirals found in fortress towers turn to the left giving guards a free hand and extended reach advantage for defending right handed swordsmen. Conversely spiral stairs found in churches have a right turn helix.

The legend say when Laurids inspected his completed work a realization fell upon him like a mortifying pall. His spiral sprung the wrong way. His design was flawed.


His shame was so inconsolable he threw himself from the top of what was supposed to be his masterpiece.

The story must of stuck in my mind. Everywhere I turned in Copenhagen that church spire seemed to always catch some part of my peripheral site. The lurking ghost of Laurids. I was compelled time and time again to photograph this tower. Lovely site, sad legend.
But alas, if one happens to come across a book of history’s greatest urban legends, this story is surely amongst them. Architect Laurids de Thurah, in fact, enjoyed opening day as a moment of great pomp and circumstance. King Frederik V walked all the way up this grand spire as 27 canons saluted in the church square.


All the pomp and circumstance was repeated in 1996 upon the church’s restoration. Prince Joachim made the same walk as Frederik. No one then, or before, dove from the tower.

What is true, however, Laurids de Thurah died only seven years after completion of his spire. Reportedly Poor and forgotten. Maybe the legend was created to remember him in a more dramatic and enduring way. Not just to say he died in bed one day.


Thanks to Tom. His rendering of the church tower story to me and his metaphorical descriptions of Copenhagen and its features were of sublime inspiration. Also to Heather for research on the design theory of spiral towers (Right hand vs left helix).

More views from a top Rundetaarn).

 

More “Dead”

Mexico’s Day of The Dead is all about gentile and happy spirits of the after life. But there’s also more Halloween-like legends of darker angels. The malcontents and evil doers on the other side.
One of Mexico’s most legendary locations for this phenomena is Guadalajara’s downtown cemetery–their “Haunted” cemetery–Panteon de Belen. Many dates on the tombs and gravestones are from the mid 1800’s. These were well-to-do and important citizens of Guadalajara. But the graveyard came into existence during some of Mexico’s hardest times. Dark years seem to produce dark legends of after life.


The atmosphere within the walls of Belan is tranquil and beautiful. Pleasing landscaping–an array of interesting trees. There’s one tree in particular. Thick, sinuous roots form a massive trunk and vast canopy. This is Guadalajara’s most guarded tree. If it is allowed to die, a rapacious vampire will be unleashed upon a defenseless city population.
He’s terrorized the region before. Evidence was dead animals all around. Not only dead but sucked dry and bloodless. Then children died this way. A vampire was on the loose. People dared not venture out at night for fear of Lestat. A vigilante group was formed to track down the evil creature. Find him, they did; Captured by net. A lethal wooden stake was driven through his heart. And to take no chances his body was entombed in a concrete sarcophicus and buried deeply at Belan. Happiness reclaimed the homeland. Until….


The lethal wooden stake grew longer and wider from the vampire’s heart. It punched through the concrete sarcophicus lid and out of the grave. The stake became this tree. Not a sap producing tree but one of blood from all the creatures the vampire killed. Any little nick or damage, the tree dripped blood. And if the tree is allowed to die, the vampire WILL RETURN!


This story was being told to a group of very  young school children on a Day of The Dead field trip to Belan.


A heightened spookiness is possible by taking a night time tour. The chance of witnessing some of the phenomena is rumored to be quite great! For instance, one story says someone committed suicide–by neck, hanging from a tree. A night time shadow of this tree sometimes appears even though it was cut down long ago.
A cemetery guard has been seen. But there is no guard. Those who saw this guard’s face say it matched a portrait attached to one of the graves.
There’s an approaching clip clop and rattle of an 1800’s horse drawn coffin wagon. It stops at the cemetery gate. Nothing is ever there except hints of moving shadows.
Perhaps this was just too much after life activity to suit “Los Hombres Ilustres,” prominent Jalisco State and Guadalajara dignitaries buried here. They were excavated in 1947 and moved to a new Memorial “La Rotonda de Los Hombres Illustres” next to Guadalajara Cathedral.


The architecture next to them may seem familiar to those big shots. The Cathedral towers and the Belan Cemetery Pavilion under which the illustrious were buried had the same architect.