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images including angels (Fig. 5), human figures, and the hand of God (Fig. 2), (3) a high proportion of mortality symbols including winged hourglasses, death’s heads, and the hand of God cutting down the tree of life (Figs. 2 and 8), and (4) the use of “mosaic pavement” starting in the nineteenth-century, a symbol which probably refers to Solomon’s Temple, and hence the return of the messiah (Figs. 1 and 8). Neo-classical marble checkerboard floorings (“mosaic pavement”) reflected a general interest in antiquity, but were also explicitly associated with Solomon’s Temple throughout the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. As such they recalled not only the Temple in Antiquity, but also the third Temple that was expected to appear in the messianic era. By at least 1730 mosaic pavement design was a mainstay of Masonic temples because of the pavement’s Solomonic association. While many prominent members of the Jewish communities in the Caribbean were indeed Masons, mosaic pavement served different purposes in Caribbean synagogues than in Masonic temples. Jews used the mosaic pavement primarily to mark boundaries, not centers as the Masons did.24 As in the island’s Sephardic synagogue, the Berg Altena Jewish cemetery used mosaic pavement as a border around graves, thus marking the boundary between the living and the dead, and between this world and the world to come. Although mosaic pavements are ubiquitous in the Berg Altena Jewish cemetery, they are completely absent from Curaçao’s Masonic cemetery and almost never found in the island’s Catholic or Protestant cemeteries. Mosaic pavement on the island developed as a distinctive Jewish practice associated with thresholds.25 The distinctive hudiu (Curaçaoan Sephardi) style is used primarily in the Berg Altena cemetery to emphasize distinctions between Jews; however, it is also invoked elsewhere on the island by Afro-Curaçaoan who sought to transcend racial boundaries. The hudiu style is perhaps best reflected by a highly popular design which we refer to as the Neoclassical Winged Time, which usually combines a winged hour glass, wreathes, and palmettes26 in a distinctive triangle pattern and mosaic pavement below. This design is found almost exclusively in the Jewish cemetery, though we did locate an example in the Catholic cemetery in Berg Altena on a tomb with a Sephardi last name, which suggests that the deceased may have been (or wished to appear to be) yu di hudiu, an Afro-Curaçaoan descended in part from Sephardi Jews.27 As Benjamin and Abraham-Van der Mark note, there is a certain cultural currency on the island in appearing to be yu di hudiu; moreover, there has been an attempt by some Afro-Curaçaoans to “appropriate the power attributed to Sephardi Jews” through the clandestine use of the older Sephardi cemetery to conduct Afro-Curaçaoan religious rituals.28 This AfroCuraçaoan interest in Sephardim may explain the placement of a small Jesus plaque commemorating Carlos Humberto Luneta (1946-1970) near the gravestone of Victor Jesurun (1891-1945), a member of the Mikvé Israel parnassim (lay council).29

Profile for Chris Davis

Markers XXVII  

Annual Journal of the Association for Gravestone Studies

Markers XXVII  

Annual Journal of the Association for Gravestone Studies

Profile for cvdavis
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