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TITANYEN, Haiti — A few miles north of the busted-down buildings in Port-au-Prince, up a hillside where cows graze, an empty hole awaits the dead. Rectangular, 20 feet deep and wide, 100 feet long, it is one of the newest mass graves, but there are many more.
The government’s dump trucks have been dropping off bodies here since Friday. No one counts, takes pictures or searches for names. In some places, legs and arms of strangers are knotted together in a frozen dance, but here the ground has been leveled by a backhoe that has erased all but the tiniest scraps of life.
“They have buried so many people here,” said Voissine Careas, 60, a farmer chopping brush nearby with a machete. “And now, they are digging holes for more.”
Along with everything else stolen by last week’s earthquake, Haitians must now add another loss: the ability to identify and bury the dead. Funeral rites are among the most sacred of all ceremonies to Haitians, who have been known to spend more money on their burial crypts than on their own homes.
It is the product in part of familiarity with death — the average life span of a Haitian is 44 — but also the widespread voodoo belief that the dead continue living and that families must stay connected forever to their ancestors.
“Convening with the dead is what allows Haitians to link themselves, directly by bloodline, to a pre-slave past,” said Ira Lowenthal, an anthropologist who has lived in Haiti for 38 years. He added that with so many bodies denied rest in family burial plots, where many rituals take place, countless spiritual connections would be severed.
“It is a violation of everything these people hold dear,” Mr. Lowenthal said. “On the other hand, people know they have no choice.”
source : The New York Times