Valparaiso’s essence can be found among its dissidents

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Last Updated on March 10, 2013

To understand the essence of Valparaiso in minutes, you must spend time among the dissidents.

valparaiso cemetery baby angel & viewThe only problem is, the dissidents are dead. But not to worry – their tombstones reveal their adventurous lives and often dramatic deaths.
valparaiso cemetery baby angel and viewOnce the most important port cities in the world, daring British and European immigrants flooded here during the 19th century and rather than assimilate into Chilean culture, they left a very distinct mark of their own on this once global city. The influence can be seen throughout Valparaiso, but nowhere is this more fascinating than in the Cementerio de Disidentes. The cemetery of the dissidents was named this way for all the non-Catholic immigrants buried here. In English, German, Spanish and a myriad of other languages, the matter-of-fact gravestones mince no words telling the story of how the immigrants met their fate.
valparaiso cemetery english family grave The dissident cemetery is sandwiched in between cemetery one and cemetery two. This row of three cemeteries afford the absolute best views of the city to all who hike the hefty climb up Ecuador Street – from the massive port that once beckoned sailors and adventurers to call Valparaiso home to the sweeping vistas of the over 40 colorful hills that make it so unique.

Join us for a walk around the most international cemetery we have ever visited:
valparaiso dissident cemetery valparaiso cemetery statueOne born in England, the other in New York, both called Valparaiso home when they died…
valparaiso cemetery british grave valparaiso cemetery american graveMerchant sailors lived hard lives and died young, like this adventurer here…
valparaiso cemetery scottish grave valparaiso cemetery german family graveHere lies Carl, Oscar, Marie and Eduardo…Germans by birth, Valparaisians at heart…
valparaiso cemetery german grave
valparaiso cemetery german grave‘Ruhe Sanft’, the German equivalent to Rest in Peace…
valparaiso cemetery german grave
valparaiso cemetery german family grave
valparaiso cemetery german sailor
valparaiso cemetery family from berlin valparaiso cemetery danish grave valparaiso cemetery german graveThe large Chinese population settled here in waves, as well…
valparaiso cemetery chinese mausoleum
valparaiso cemetery statueSpending time here, we found that, as nomads, we identified with so many of these expatriates and their adventures. Knowing how many of us there are nowadays exploring the world, it makes us wonder if more and more cemeteries will look like this in the future?

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Tags : valparaiso


  1. You can certainly learn a lot about the history of a place by walking through a cemetery. One of the most interesting cemeteries we’ve ever visited was in Bermuda. They had a section marked “Slaves and Free Blacks” as well as tombstones from various European countries. We had never seen anything like that before and it certainly spoke volumes about the history.
    The cemetery featured in your post is perhaps one of the most international in the world. Such variety. Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. Bermuda – wow! You girls certainly get around 🙂 That cemetery sounds really interesting – I hope we’ll make it there some day 🙂 One of the most interesting ‘international’ cemeteries was the one in Tombstone, Arizona, where there were so many graves of Chinese settlers, but also native Indians, cowboys, … – all along with funny stories about how they died (

  2. I am not very interested in history but I do find cemeteries to be a beautiful and interesting thing to visit while traveling. These are beautiful. As a former expat, I am touched by the stories of their travels being noted on their tombstones.

    1. Rease – when we saw these tombstones, I thought to myself that where ever in the world mine will be, it should have something about my nomadic life on it 🙂

  3. What a beautiful place. I always find cemeteries incredibly emotive but to be able to see a glimpse of the life of those who have passed must have been especially moving.

    I imagine you could spend hours wandering round and imagining the lives of those buried beneath.

    Great post girls thanks for giving us a peak into such a unusual place.

    1. Thanks, Charli! It was especially moving to see all these Germans and other Europeans who made their way to Chile over 150 years ago in search of a better life, far away from their families. It made me spin so many stories in my head about what it must have been like for them.

  4. Quite a fascinating walk through time! I missed the cemetery while in Valparaiso – would not have thought to even go in. Perhaps, in the future, I will. The lives and stories of some of these people make it an interesting glimpse into history.
    My great grandfather was a stone mason. When we went on a family trip to his home town my great aunt took us through the cemetery – while not nearly as old as this one in Spain, it was interesting to hear all the stories and to see my great grandfathers work.

    1. Anita – we are big fans of cemeteries, I hope that doesn’t sound creepy, but we just love to see the different styles of graves and mausoleums around the world, and how people deal with death (love the way most Latin American countries ‘celebrate’ it in a very colorful way, for example).

  5. I’m noticing a trend here – it seems like you often make time to visit the cemetery when you’re in a new city. You guys like the cemetery, huh? :p and I love your observation at the end of this post – that we may be buried far from where we started or where we were born.

    1. Thanks, Pauline! You are absolutely right – we love to visit cemeteries around the world… and we’ll actually visit another one here in Chile today 😀

  6. What I find interesting is that the English inscriptions are really detailed, naming professions, where they are from and describing how they died and the German inscriptions are really to the point. Even dead Germans are more efficient. 😉

  7. Hi – this is very interesting. My sister has been researching our family history, and quite by chance came across our great grandfathers headstone in this cementery. We knew he died in La Pz, and so had assumed he would be buried there. But by pure chance, she was walking around this cemetery and came across his grave! I hesitate to try to calculate the chances of this happening!!

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