Nicaragua: Tomb of Alejandro Vega Matus
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I had not intended to walk around Masaya for seven hours that day, in the blistering heat, with little more than my camera, a sweat-soaked printout of a Google map and some cash hidden in my sock, but I did and would do it again. My intended goal was to visit the final resting place of the esteemed composer Carlos Ramírez Velásquez, which, turns out, was to prove elusive.
I arrived at Masaya’s central cemetery, located on the south side of town, past the famous indigenous neighborhood of Monimbó, invigorated by the long walk from the city center and ready to begin looking for don Carlos. I discovered that the cemetery is divided into at least six sections. Both of the men whose job it is to guard and maintain it initially guided me through a couple of its sections. At the same time, they shared some valuable information on how to orient myself within the older parts. They did this while we walked up and down rows and rows of graves, small chapels, etc. which were in generally good shape and well-maintained.
I came across several graves that could have belonged to relatives of don Carlos, including one that I’m certain was kinfolk (a Ramírez Alvarado, if I remember correctly), one of the many musicians produced by his extended family. Yet the first discovery that got my adrenaline going was the grave of Ramiro Vega, former music director of the band of the National Guard and son of the composer Alejandro Vega Matus. Don Ramiro was a noted composer in his own right and here was his tomb, a small chapel-like structure erected by his wife, which contained a dedicatory plaque and photograph of him.
It then struck me that don Ramiro’s father might also be buried in the same cemetery. However, I had to move on to another section, the oldest of them all, to find out if my hunch was correct. And there he was, the famed composer Alejandro Vega Matus, nearly a household name in this part of the country, squeezed in between two other graves. I don’t remember who his neighbors were.
It stood out thanks to a column that jutted out above the tomb, atop which was a carved bust of don Alejandro. The column/bust was added to the tomb some six years after his death. It is a memento commissioned by the son whose grave I had found a little earlier. The plaque on the front also post-dates the tomb, added by the city in 1987 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his death.
I then found the pièce de résistance, a small plaque painted the same white color as the rest of the tomb, placed around back and very close to the ground. Had I not made an effort to inspect as much of the tomb as possible, I would have missed the touching memento that the Ramírez Brothers (namely, Carlos and Lisandro Ramírez Velásquez) had made in honor of their friend sometime after his death. The plaque is undated and reads, “Glory to the genius Vega Matus.”
Masaya’s central cemetery proved fruitful that day by revealing the graves of two notable Nicaraguan composers. And while I did not find don Carlos, I was very happy to have at least found one his footprints in the form of a plaque, and learned a bit more about his nature.