Guadeloupe: Morne-à-l’Eau Cemetery

On the island of Grande-Terre, in Guadeloupe, lies the town Morne-à-l’Eau. The Morne-à-l’Eau Cemetery has 1,800 tombs, most with a consistent black-and-white checkerboard pattern theme. These small house-like buildings have sloped roofs and porches, with some dating back to 1847. While it is not definitively known why most of the tombs are decorated in black and white, it is thought that the white originates from the traditional African color of mourning, while the black reflects the traditional European color of mourning. Each year, as the Christian festival All Saints’ Day (November 1st) approaches, weeds are pulled from around the vaults and the black-and-white patterns are repainted. On the evening of All Saints’ Day, the families gather in the cemetery for the festivities, including eating bokits (a Guadeloupean sandwich) and peanuts and lighting candles to remember their loved ones.