Like so many places in this country, the General Cemetery in Quetzaltenango is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's a treasure trove of history: marble mausoleums and colorfully painted grave sites packed one on top of the other in avenues of linear disarray, dating as far back as the early to mid 1800's. It's a great sight, and memorable to say the least. On the other hand, the ever-present symptoms of Guatemalan poverty are alive and well here, manifested both in the graveyard's severely deteriorated condition and the crime/vandalism that frequently takes place within its gates. Cue the audible sigh. So what's a traveler to do? Well that's easy: go, but go in a group, and definitely not at night.
The necropolis' main highlight is the tomb of Vanushka, a gypsy from Eastern Europe who, as legend has it, died of a broken heart when her affluent Guatemalan lover was sent to Spain by his disapproving father. These days, despairing lovers from across the globe leave flowers and jot messages on her tomb in hopes that she'll one day reunite them with the one they've lost. Even if tragic stories don't pull on your heartstrings, chances are you'll find plenty to see and appreciate here. If nothing else, just think of it as a peaceful and solemn reprieve from an otherwise bustling city.