ITA -- Paraguayan soil is a dark, rich red, the same ferrous color that stained my white socks when I visited Mississippi as a boy. Since I have never dug up a human body here before -- much less one belonging to a fugitive Nazi -- I can only guess how red a corpse's bones should be. According to Hugh Thomas, one of the most serious proponents of the theory that Reichsleiter Martin Bormann died in Paraguay in 1959 and was secretly disinterred and brought to Berlin, the Bormann bones found in Berlin in 1972 had a distinct red sheen, the telltale tattoo of their brief stay here in the municipal cemetery of Ita.
A characteristic of paupers' graves is (to adopt the language of my browser) a high refresh rate. The bodies are buried with minimal obsequies and markings that fade fast: instead of a headstone, a light wooden cross with a name in paint or magic marker; or instead of a big carved rock, a wafer-thin one that the gravediggers can eventually yank from the ground and lean against a fence somewhere. The cemetery in Ita has many permanent graves -- some could last centuries -- but among them, crammed in, are others that will almost certainly be forgotten and reused within a decade or two. Petite brick shrines barely a decade old are partly reduced to rubble because someone bumped into them when trying to pass by a narrow lane of graves. Still less permanent are body-shaped sunken pits, adorned with withered wreaths or nothing at all. The soil is moist, so the corpses suck at my boots as I walk over them.