Death is not hidden in Timor Leste and it is not uncommon to see women in black headscarves and men with black cloth tied around their neck or wrist as a sign of mourning.
So it follows that November is an important time for Roman Catholics in Timor Leste, a time when people return to the districts to be with their families and remember those that have passed away. Traditionally on All Saints’ Day (1 Nov) families tidy and repair the gravestones, before returning on All Souls’ Day (2 Nov) to lay flowers, light candles and pray.
In Dili, there is a large cemetery called Santa Cruz and James and I rose early to make our way there before the day’s heat set in.
Walking in the general direction of the cemetery, but still some blocks away, small groups of observers could be seen on their way home, while others joined the general flow people heading south, with baskets of flowers in hand. By the time we reached the cemetery there was a mass of people filing through the few small gates into the graveyard.
Once inside we picked our way between and around the closely placed graves, some painted blue or pink, some with handmade concrete stones, and some just turned earth. And everywhere we looked there were families or individuals tending to the place where loved ones lay. There was soft chatter and occasionally singing could be heard, but for the number of people there, it was a respectful occasion.
November 12 is also observed in Dili with candles and vigils to remember those who were killed by the Indonesian military at the Santa Cruz Massacre in 1991.