NOGALES, Ariz. — Nothing is eternal except perhaps the afterlife.
So unless you get cremated, those who have not bought plots already at Nogales City Cemetery will have to look elsewhere for a final resting place.
"There are no longer new plots available at the City of Nogales Cemetery," said Parks and Recreation Director Marcel Bachelier in a press release on Monday.
The cemetery — flanked by Bejarano and Kitchen Streets and Western Avenue and Kino Street — was officially established in 1905 on a hill near the old Camp Stephen D. Little military camp.
The camp itself was established five years later.
But there are a few people who were buried there long before that. Julius Ullman of Belfort, France, for example, died in 1886, according to a marble marker on a red brick grave tucked tightly inside an ornate wrought iron fence. It is one of if not the oldest graves in the cemetery as per a cursory inventory. Accurate burial records spanning back that far are hard to come by.
In 2008, city officials announced they were looking for alternatives as the space availability at the cemetery dwindled. Including the Masonic, Jewish, Korean, and veterans sections of the cemetery, there are 7,668 plots. At the time, there were 1,825 burial spots available. The municipal portion had just 510 unused plots that were already sold and just 30 were still available.
Former City Manager Jaime Fontes announced plans to reconfigure the layout to buy some time. This entailed selling lots on curbsides and closing roads to make room for more graves. But the city never found a new graveyard.
Last year, Thomas Martinez of Martinez Funeral Chapels announced plans to purchase 10 acres west of Nogales High School owned by Alfredo Puchi to construct a cemetery. He went as far as receiving a provisional use permit from the Nogales Board of Adjustments. But in the end, he was unable to cut a deal with the property owner on a purchase price.
Contacted by cell phone recently, he was looking at a new property off Patagonia Highway.
"I couldn't come to an agreement with Mr. Puchi. So now I'm back to square one looking at different properties that are available."
Bachelier said that the end was foretold in November 2011 when the city announced it would no longer be selling plots. At subsequent city council meetings, officials declared Nogales was getting out of the cemetery business except for managing a columbarium for cremations.
The columbarium was completed by city crews for about $40,000 in November 2011 and so far nine niches have been sold, five at $1,000, four at $1,520 each, which is the high end of the pricing. Plots by comparison were sold for $100 each.
"Unfortunately, there isn't any more space (for burial) and people should begin to look at other options," Bachelier said.
Information from: Nogales International, http://www.nogalesinternational.com/