One of the oldest cemeteries in Latin America, the Cementerio Británico Montevideo was first sited on a piece of land known as the Cementerio de los Ingleses – during the British Invasions of 1807 a battle took place there, and several British soldiers were killed. Their comrades buried their bodies on the land on which they had fallen. In 1828 the British Consul in Montevideo bought the land for the British government, and the British Cemetery became more formally recognised. In 1885 this original central city site was closed, and the cemetery transferred to its current location next to the Buceo Cemetery.
The 1902 obelisk at its entrance in honour of Queen Victoria was funded and constructed in 18 months. It’s a reminder of how prosperous and patriotic was the British community in Montevideo.
The portrait bust is impressive, the inscription V . R . I (for Victoria Regina Imperatrix) an echo from the past. The monument dates and celebrates her accession and long reign.
The site’s occupants remind us of the character of the British – they are from all parts of the United Kingdom, and they include sailors, soldiers and ordinary people as well as the great and good.
Some who died here were commemorated by friends and shipmates …
… others by their émigré families now established in the New World.
Established as a Protestant cemetery to accommodate those who couldn’t be buried elsewhere, the Jesuit symbol on this gravestone makes good the cemetery’s claim to have no restrictions regarding religion …
… and there are many examples of non-British nationality.
Those commemorated may have died in parts unknown.
Others have left home and family so far behind that little more than their names are known.
A deceased wife is the subject of a fulsome eulogy from her spouse.
Some recount the lives of their occupants in old and adopted cultures.
There is a German community here too. The German Patients’ Union (Deutscher Krankenverein) saw to it that those who died in Uruguay received a decent burial. Some of the crew of the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee were buried nearby following the 1939 Battle of the River Plate.
Earlier European history is also visible.
The old world’s institutions take vigorous root in the New.
With differences – bankers are not held in such regard in the old world.
The cemetery is still in use. At first glance it appears like the cemetery of a prosperous British city – perhaps the statuary is a little florid.
But the graves are eloquent testimony to the turbulent history of this part of Latin America, on a large and on a small scale. One of the most striking monuments still cries for justice from beyond the grave. These stones truly do speak.