Our Lady of Guadalupe – Velarde New Mexico

the Jesuses I observed in Our Lady of Guadalupe Cemetery were two of the most spectacular Jesus grave markers I have ever seen in a cemetery.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Cemetery
Our Lady of Guadalupe

Coupling a keen eye for grave markers with the barren flat landscape of New Mexico back country means very few cemeteries go unnoticed to The Cemetery Detective.

On a late May afternoon while driving slightly faster than necessary along Highway 68 and fighting the glare of a hot New Mexico sun, I glimpsed the familiar shapes of traditional southwestern grave markers more than a mile in the distance. “I simply do not have time to take in another cemetery today” I thought to myself. My journey was growing long and I had less than 3 days to travel 1300 miles back to my home in East Tennessee.

As each tenth mile clicked away on my odometer the lure of this particular cemetery grew as distant as my desire to eat one more greasy tamale from a roadside tamale stand. The kind of tamale containing peppers never seen east of the Mississippi River. The kind that exudes brightly colored grease that pours down your hand and into your shirtsleeve with each bite. Sure, they taste great at first but after so many days on the road and so many lackluster experiences, you desire an immediate change of pace.

The middle divider of the four lane highway provided enough of a barrier to quell my impetus of making another stop. I would be on my way without distraction. Now, I consider myself fairly spontaineous. However, when I first noticed the highway crossover, it was less than 200 feet in front of me. Being in the right hand lane of the four lane highway and travelling with my right foot depressed more than half-way to the floorboard made a possible diversion through the crossover and toward the cemetery on my left simply unreasonable to fathom. However, the instant gratification of a self-provided challenge was too much to resist. With a squeal that would make a set of high end Pirelli’s envious, my tires accepted the physics-defying cornering demands of my rapid decelaration and abrupt trajectory change with ease.

The sign said “Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.” I could have sworn I had stopped at a OLG Cemetery not a day before and I hoped I was not going to be as disappointed with this cemetery as I was with the last one.

As happens so often in my life, the absolute last minute decisions, that take place with completely no planning at all, often turn out to be some of my best decisions. This fantastic find was the result of one such decision.

As I pulled into OLG Cemetery, I saw a very familiar sight; dry sandy substrate with no greenery in easy view. Ahh…but I was not here to spy greenery. And what I was here to spy, the grave markers, were spectacular.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Cemetery Overview
Our Lady of Guadalupe Cemetery Overview

I have seen Jesuses as grave markers before. I have seen broken-hearted Jesuses, crucified Jesuses, and I have even seen a Jesus wearing cowboy boots. However, the Jesuses I observed in OLG were two of the most spectacular Jesus grave markers I have ever seen in a cemetery.

Jesus Grave Marker & Grave Shelter
Jesus Grave Marker & Grave Shelter

Jesus #1 appeared to be slightly over 6’ tall though his long, thing, gangly arms should have been fitted to a skinny man a full 12” taller. He had a very pleasant smile on his face though the stigmata on his hands were clearly visible. A white linen draped around one shoulder clearly setoff his tanned, well defined, even muscular, body and his hair fell loosely around his shoulders. What a magnificent sight.

Jesus #2 appeared to be the same height as Jesus #1. However, Jesus #2’s figure was bent slightly at the waist under the heavy burden of the cross he carried. His face was much grimmer than the first Jesus as trickles of blood meanered toward his eyes after seeping from wounds produced by a thorny crown encircling his head. He wore a full robe as opposed to the first Jesus’ loosely fitted linen however both Jesuses sported full beards. Another very interesting aspect of the two Jesus markers is that they are both housed under cover of grave shelters.

What a joy OLG Cemetery was. I could have easily spent two hours enjoying each and every grave marker. However, the previously mentioned time constraints pressed me to move on my way. If you are ever in this section of New Mexico, please stop in, take a few photographs, and collect a few hands full of wind blown litter that inevitably becomes entangled within the perimeter fence. If you happen to be (or know of) the artist who produced the Jesus grave markers, I would love to hear from you. Your work is very much admired.

Following a keen interest in cemeteries The Cemetery Detective has studied burying grounds from Hawaii to Maine, Europe, and throughout the United Kingdom. He instructs entrepreneurs how to start their own grave care businesses through his website: www.GraveCareBusiness.com


Nearby Attraction: Black Mesa Winery

Datil Cemetery – Datil New Mexico

the iron gate at Datil Cemetery is spectacular.

Datil Cemetery Gate New Mexico
Datil Cemetery New Mexico – Iron Gate

After almost meeting Jodi Foster, eating a hamburger the size of a Frisbee, and driving dead straight for almost 60 miles, I discovered a terrific little cemetery tucked away in a wooded landscape not far from wilderness campgrounds and a working horse farm.

“Wait, you almost met Jodi Foster? Skip the cemetery stuff and tell us the details.” you are probably saying to yourself.
Well, in all honesty, I did not almost meet Jodi Foster. However, I did visit the Very Large Array (VLA) where Jodi Foster filmed segments of the film “CONTACT” in 1996. There is a large poster describing the day she visited the VLA. I’m sure it was a very exciting time for the scientists to have their facilities featured in such a movie.

After leaving the VLA site and stopping by an out-of-the-way burger joint called the Eagle Guest Ranch where I ate the best 16 ounce hamburger smothered in green chili I have ever eaten, I heard rumor of a great cemetery with a beautiful ironwork gate. My main question at this point concerned the correct pronunciation of the town’s name. Was it pronounced Day-til? That was my best guess until I saw the name of the hamburger on the menu. “The Datil Do-Ya” burger. Ahhh…Dattle-Do-Ya. Great….the correct pronunciation of the cemetery is: Dattle.

In my hunt for Datil Cemetery, a technical obstacle immediately presented itself. Using my Garmin GPS, I found Oatil Cemetery but there was no listing for Datil. If anyone from the USGS happens to have access to the nationwide cemetery database happens to read this: Oatil Cemetery in New Mexico need to be changed to Datil Cemetery.

Anyway, I saw the cemetery but I missed the turn and wound around to a working horse farm. The horses were beautiful and intrigued by my attempts to cross a shallow ravine in my current Cemetery-Mobile. Yes, a Chevy Cavalier is not suitable for 4 wheeling. With slobber dripping bits, the horses blinked their eyes and swished their tails. Glad I provided some much needed ammusement, big guys. A friendly, yet skeptical, cowgirl sidled up to my car and offered directions to Datil Cemetery. Datil Cemetery is off route 12 just outside of Datil, New Mexico.

As I had heard, the iron gate at Datil Cemetery is spectacular. A kneeling cowboy backed by his trusty steed pays respects to a cross in front of a setting sun. The cemetery is small but the care taken by the family and friend of those buried at Datil Cemetery is apparent.

Apparently, a campground lies nestled amongst the hills to the east of Datil Cemetery. I would have loved to have bedded down for the night but my enthusiastic travelling companion (The Cemetery Diva) urged me on to our next stop.

Datil Cemetery New Mexico - View of the Distant Mountains
View of Distant Mountains – Datil Cemetery New Mexico
Datil Cemetery Fenced Plots
Grove of trees in Datil Cemetery – Datil New Mexico

Road Side Memorial – White Plains New Mexico

Along Route 60 just outside of Socorro, New Mexico and surrounded by white sands on our way to the Very Large Array, I saw a roadside memorial substantial enough to warrant a stop.

I normally keep my blog dedicated to cemeteries but occasionally I discover a place of remembrance so unique that I want to share it with you.

Along Route 60 just outside of Socorro, New Mexico and surrounded by white sands on our way to the Very Large Array, I saw a roadside memorial substantial enough to warrant a stop. I am not at all familiar with roadside memorials. I hope you enjoy these pictures.

Road Side Memorial New Mexico
Road Side Memorial New Mexico
Road Side Memorial New Mexico Building
Road Side Memorial New Mexico Building
Road Side Memorial Inside New Mexico
Road Side Memorial Inside New Mexico

Vista Memory Gardens – Truth or Consequences New Mexico

Vista Memory Gardens cemetery is on Cemetery Road at the end of Dale Street off Route 85 outside of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Vista Memory Gardens Cemetery - Truth or Consequences New Mexico
Vista Memory Gardens Cemtery – Truth or Consequences New Mexico

I remember attending a grave stone conference one year where one major point of interest was methods of reducing graffiti and vandalism in cemeteries. One participant in the discussion offered a very clever solution. “Put up a sign warning of Rattlesnakes” he said. There was a collective gasp and a round of laughter as everyone understood the effects such a sign would have on misguided visitors. After all, no misguided visitor wants to be surrounded by rattlesnakes in a cemetery at night.

“WARNING: THIS IS A KNOWN RATTLESNAKE AREA” The sign’s worn lettering speaks of a hot desert sun baking everything in its uninterrupted midday rays. Contrasted to a brilliantly colored yet harsh desert backdrop the sign’s significance is not lent to one erected as a simple ploy to keep ne’re-do-well scoundrels at bay. This sign meant what it said and I took its words to heart. Well, actually, I took them as a challenge of excited expectation as I tried my best to find a Rattlesnake within the confines of the cemetery. I would have loved to see a Rattlesnake sprawled out atop a gravemarker in the mid afternoon sunshine.

Vista Memory Gardens cemetery is on Cemetery Road at the end of Dale Street off Route 85 outside of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. As can be expected, the cemetery is surrounded by dusty dry landscape with slight hills to the north which must harbor dozens of rattlers that slither from their burrows to scare unwitting visitors to Vista Memory Gardens.

Caretakers take obvious pride in their work. The grounds are clean and well manicured. Though I love natural and native landscapes in cemeteries, the caretakers have planted sod and keep the grounds well groomed to give an overall pleasing green tone to the cemetery. There are a few trees that give shade to an otherwise barren landscape.

Rattlesnakes in the Cemetery
Beware of Rattlesnakes in this cemetery.
Rattlesnake Habitat in a Cemetery
Rattlesnakes in the Cemetery
Vista Memory Gardens Green Grass Truth or Consequences New Mexico
Plesant greenery at Vista Memory Gardens cemetery.

Elephant Butte Cemetery – Truth or Consequences New Mexico

Elephant Butte Cemetery, Truth or Consequences New Mexico. Rattlesnakes, desert winds, looming thunderstorms, mountain lions, and dead end tracks.

Elephant Butte Cemetery, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Approaching the town of Elephant ButteElephant Butte Cemetery – Truth or Consequences New Mexico

What started as a quick 10 minute stop in Truth or Consequences New Mexico ends in a story of rattlesnakes, desert winds, looming thunderstorms, mountain lions, and dead end tracks.

I love the hard-to-find cemeteries and I am a very tenacious cemetery hunter. Once I know the general location of a cemetery there is rarely much that can stop my quest to find, document, and photograph the interesting tombstones located within. I have crawled through thickets, slopped through mud, ignored a few “No Trespassing” signs, and faced more than my share of wild animals in attempts to find out-of-the-way cemeteries.

While driving across New Mexico, a friend Facebooked me about some of the best Tamales and Chili Relanos in Truth or Consequences. So, I stopped into La Cocina to check the local fare. While there I learned about a cemetery called Elephant Butte located in the desert far off the main road. YAY, the hunt was on.

I plugged the coordinates into my GPS and waited for directions. “Turn right on Pacific Road” Now, if you have never been to the American southwest, you might not know that a simple direction such as “Turn right on Pacific Road” can turn into a 3 hour ordeal leading you down sand covered paths far into the desert. It turned out Pacific Road is such a path.

After 30 minutes driving on an increasingly sandy desert road through automobile junkyards and obscure construction sites, I finally turned around to find an alternate route. Back on paved road signs began to appear for Elephant Butte Park. My excitement peaked but then collapsed as a “ROAD CLOSED” sign block the entrance over a partially completed dam project. “DAM!” I mean, it’s a shame that dam wasn’t complete. Elephant Butte cemetery was only a mile away.

Back to the trusty GPS I found an alternate route. Directions came loud and clear until “Navigate Off Road.” Ugh! It was getting late and a storm whipped itself into a frenzy. Off into the horizon I could see sheets of rain and flashes of lightning. Not only was a storm bearing down but the sun was going down.

A half mile of cross country trekking stood between me and Elephant Butte Cemetery.

Rattlesnakes in New Mexico Desert
How many snakes were hiding under this scrub?

Now, I am not much of a snake expert but I do know that rattlesnakes are plentiful in this part of New Mexico and I also know that they become active at dusk. On flat land it is easy to walk between the scrub brush and avoid snake encounters. However, a Butte isn’t flat and a 200′ climb up craggy brush covered rocky outcropping seemed like a perfect opportunity for many dangerous rattlesnake encounters. Ugh! Did I blaze up the climb and hope for the best?

No. I chose safety first and headed back for the car to look for yet another alternate route.

As the sun’s angle changed toward the end of day, I noticed a double track trail skirting a hillside leading toward the direction of the cemetery’s supposed location. Ugh! If only I had a 4-wheel drive vehicle. The Cemetery Detectivemobile wasn’t up for the challenge of foot deep ruts and boulders the size of small mountain lions. Speaking of mountain lions….nah, I’ll save that for later.

While the Cemetery Detectivemobile wasn’t up the the challenge, I am a lifelong trail runner and a 1/2 mile trail run on desert double track is barely a challenge worth mentioning. With trail running shoes cinched tight, my GPS in one hand, and my camera in the other I took off for the run.

Elephant Butte, New Mexico
Elephant Butte

“Navigate Off Road” the reassuring GPS lady kept screaming in my ear.
0.4 Miles
0.3 Miles
As the distance decreased I felt increasingly confident I would find Elephant Butte Cemetery and make my way back to the car well before sunset.

0.4 Miles Oops, going in the wrong direction.

0.3 Miles Ahhh…the path curved around a grouping of cacti and I was heading in the right direction again.

0.2 Miles My legs felt strong as I sped up in an attempt to reach the cemetery quicker than I anticipated. The thought of rattlesnakes didn’t even bother me any longer as I knew their fastest strikes could never catch my Superman-speed legs. A couple lengths of a football field was all that was left and I knew I could cover that distance in a minute or two. Success of another conquered, difficult-to-find cemetery was within easy reach.

Or so I thought.

Just then, at the height of my confidence, the trail went cold as it invisibly descended into the murky depths of a desert canyon. “Never mind this small inconvenience” I thought as I powered down one side and prepared to ascend the other side. “Oh no” the trail became more rugged and definite hand-over-feet scrambling would be needed to make the ascent. “Meh! No worries. I can make it” I convinced myself.

“BLEEP!!!” I wondered why my GPS had just BLEEPED at me and I looked down to a blank screen. “OH NO!” The rechargeable battery within the GPS only gives an hour of charge. Since it wasn’t fully charged at the outset of my cross desert trail run, it decided to quit at the exact point it needed it most. Oh how I longed for the familiar “Navigate Off Road” from the sweet voiced lady that lives inside my GPS.

Most GPSes have enough built in reserve power to run the unit for a few minutes after the battery run out. As I looked down to find the power switch, I caught a quick glimpse of myself. Here I was in the middle of a snake infested desert with 50 mile per hour storm winds blowing, at sunset, in a pair of trail running shoes, shorts, and a tee shirt.

I was off-trail and about to climb a 200′ butte with a dead GPS unit.

There are some points in life when you make the bold statements such as: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” When those points pass and all the torpedoes have missed, you become a hero. However, when the torpedoes have venom filled fangs and are hiding under a darkening, windy, rocky outcropping in the middle of the desert the punishment of failure outweighs the bragging rights of finding one more cemetery.

Looking over my shoulder multiple times as I jogged back to my car, I “if only’d” more times than I can count. If only I had jeans on. If only I had boots on. If only it wasn’t getting dark. If only it wasn’t storming. If only I had a flash light. If only my GPS weren’t dead. I think only one of those “if onlies” could have convinced me to carry on and find the Elephant Butte Cemetery. However, for this day, it wasn’t meant to be.

On my jog back to the car I watched the trail carefully and noticed multiple piles of scat along the trail. Now, I’m not sure what type of animal this scat belonged to but there are many Mountain Lion sightings in this desert and, I believe, in the distance and through the howling wind, I heard the familiar cries of a Big Cat calling out to me and telling me I had made the right choice in leaving Elephant Butte Cemetery for another day.

Elephant Butte Cemetery
One Last Look








Nearby:  If you are in Truth or Consequences and need your Mexican food fix, check out: La Cocina


South Park Cemetery – Roswell New Mexico

South Park Cemetery in Roswell New Mexico was only my second encounter with true southwestern influenced Roman Catholic mourning decorations.

South Park Cemetery Roswell New Mexico
South Park Cemetery Gate

My primary reason for visiting Roswell was to find UFOs, Aliens, and blinking lights in the starlit backdrop of an April New Mexico sky. I am quite sure I spotted a few aliens albeit not of the extra-terrestrial variety. However, I did spy spooky shaped streetlights and a McDonald’s bearing a striking resemblance to a silvery disc embedded and crumpled into a rocky outcropping after an out-of-control plummet through earth’s lower atmosphere.

While the search for Aliens left me cold, tromping though Roswell’s South Park Cemetery lofted my spirits considerably higher than the ability of any weather balloon displayed at the local UFO Museum.

South Park Cemetery was only my second encounter with true southwestern influenced Roman Catholic mourning decorations. I was entranced as colorful ornamentation dazzled me under the brilliant desert sun. Royal blues, baby blues, desert pinks, and brilliant reds adorne every corner of the South Park Cemetery. I love the characterization of Mary trodding on the serpent that is so prevalent in South Park Cemetery.

I truly anticipated watching a famous New Mexico sunset from South Park Cemetery but, unfortunately, management close their office doors around 5:00 PM. The caretakers did not shoo me away and the gates were left open but I was on my way before anyone asked me to do so.

Awww well, I spent a good 90 minutes exploring the tombstones and counting all the Mary and Jesus statues. Besides, the darkening sky meant my gaze would soon turn away from ground level tombstone observations and, instead, turn to the nighttime ethereal sphere where I hoped to catch a glimpse of blinking lights and little green men beckoning me to join them above.

Mary and Snake Grave Marker
Mary and Snake Grave Marker








Mary and Snake Grave Marker Closeup
Mary and Snake Grave Marker Tombstone






Jesus Grave Marker South Park Cemetery Roswell New Mexico
Jesus Grave Marker








Tile Tombstone Artwork
Tile Tombstone Artwork






Backside of interesting grave markers.
Backside of interesting grave markers.






Frontside of interesting grave markers.
Frontside of interesting grave markers.






Mary Behind Glass - Grave Marker
Mary Behind Glass – Grave Marker






Mary Behind Bars - Grave Stone - South Park Cemetery Roswell New Mexico
Mary Behind Bars






South Park Cemetery Overview - Roswell New Mexico
South Park Cemetery Overview – Roswell New Mexico









Nearby Attraction:  UFO Museum & Research Center