Av Constituyentes S/N, Panteón Civíl de Dolores, Miguel Hidalgo, 11100 Ciudad de México, CDMX
81 8344 0570
The Panteón de Dolores (“Dolores Cemetery”) is the largest cemetery in the whole country of Mexico, it’s located between the 2nd and 3rd section of the Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park) and it has been providing the residents of this metropolis with a final resting place among the shady trees that are typical of the Chapultepec area. The cemetery dates back to 1870 when Juan Manuel Benfield set aside a part of his ranch to start his business of selling small plots of land for people to bury their loved ones. The ranch was called La Tabla de Dolores and eventually, the Dolores Cemetery opened in 1875 on what was then the outer limits of the city; this new cemetery came to replace older cemeteries located in the center of Mexico City like the San Fernando and Santa Paula cemeteries. It should be noted that just before the construction of the Panteón de Dolores, the Catholic church was in charge of overseeing all burials in Spain and its former territories, and it was due to the Reform Laws in Mexico of 1855 that the church’s power was diminished, including its authority over burials and cemeteries.
In the middle of those shady trees and cool gusts of wind that make them sway there’s the Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres (Rotunda of Illustrious Persons), a part of the cemetery overseen by the federal government that is the burial ground for men and women who have contributed significantly to Mexico’s history and basically that have made it a better place. This space was acquired by the federal government in 1876 as part of a proposed new burial ground for Mexico’s great citizens, brought forward by then-president Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada (in 1880 the whole cemetery was bought by the government per its request).
The first person to be buried at the new Rotunda was Pedro Letechipía, a military commander who participated in a number of battles, including those of the American invasion, the French invasion (he was even captured and sent to France, but somehow came back), against the Hapsburg monarchy, in the Revolución de Ayutla against Santa Anna’s forces, and in the Guerra de Reforma on the Republican side.
The Rotunda has a council that oversees the selection of those people that will be interred in it, and its members are the Secretaries of the Interior, of Defense, of the Navy, of Culture, and of Public Education. This council has selected a wide array of illustrious Mexicans, from military generals to musical composers, poets, sculptors, businessmen, lawyers, etc. In keeping up with the times this former Rotunda of Illustrious Men was changed in 2003 by President Vicente Fox to the Rotunda of Illustrious Persons.