Mass and Burial Mexican style

coffin
Typically, a person dies, his or her body is taken to a family member’s home or the funeral home for the viewing.  Mass is the next morning with burial following.  As my mother-in-law’s body was not released until late afternoon, and the entire family, my father-in-law and his children, were required to report to the Public Ministry Office the following day at 11 and were there until late afternoon again, they felt that they hadn’t had time to properly mourn, so she was returned to the house for a second night mourning after mass.   (See Viewing and Wake)
The altar of El señor de Escapulitas Catholic Church in Moroleón

The altar of El señor de Escapulitas Catholic Church in Moroleón

Mass was scheduled at 9 a.m. in the morning so that the family could be at the 11 a.m. hearing.  The funeral car came to pick up the body and we walked from the house to the church, El Señor del Escapulitas for mass.  The sons and my father-in-law stood with the casket in front of the altar during mass.  The daughters stayed with their families in the first few pews.  My son and I knelt when everyone else knelt, stood when everyone else stood and said amen when everyone else did.  I can’t say that the mass was in any way personalized from what I understood.  Nothing about her life was mentioned, just the solemnized intonations of ritual prayer.  My mother-in-law’s co-workers from the Presidencia came along with a good group of teachers from the school I was working at.

I, unfortunately, experienced another death later in the year when my friend, el maestro (teacher) died.  The mass said over his body was an entirely different affair.  The Padre (priest) spoke about the fullness of his life and quoted beautiful and hopeful passages from the bible.  There were music and singing.  And when his coffin left the church, the masses that had gathered in the Centro gave el maestro (teacher) a standing ovation.  My mother-in-law’s funeral paled in comparison.

So I asked about the differences in the misas (masses) and found out that the church offers levels of services, at different prices.  The basic package was what my mother-in-law was given, very little personalization.  The deluxe package costs more, of course, but has the spectacular effects of el maestro’s (teacher’s) services.

We walked back to the house behind the funeral car after mass. The plan was that my mother-in-law’s body was to spend one night in town and the second night in La Yacata, however, the town children protested due to the fact that there wasn’t running water or electricity in La Yacata.  So her body stayed in town.  Although it seemed to me that my mother-in-law wouldn’t have minded the lack of services anymore, the convenience of the mourners kept us in town. This cause general confusion and attendance was scanty at best the second night, most having believed the body to be already interred or to be in La Yacata.
To top it all off, R arrived the morning of the second day to have me sign papers for the lawsuit from Chuchi.  So there I am, outside in the blazing sun, reading the 3 page paper (because it just wouldn’t do to sign and not know what you are signing) that stated that 1) Chuchi was not president at the time he made the contract and therefore not legally representing La Yacata 2) the pozo perforation is outside the boundaries of what is legally registered as La Yacata  and 3) no water rights were ever purchased that would make a pozo a legal possibility. (See Demanda 1 and Demanda 2).
My husband and I went out and bought 12 rotisserie chickens to feed the family and group of mourners that stayed throughout the day.  We also bought more flowers so that everyone would be able to leave a flower when we took the body for burial.
Tradition requires that the body not be left alone or the soul the deceased might be offended but the second evening, through the pure exhaustion of the family members this was allowed to happen unintentionally.  There also must not be any cleaning up.  The multitude of mourners left their Styrofoam cups and napkins littered about, but we were not to sweep.  All the trash had to be picked up by hand until after the novena, since sweeping would be an insult to the soul, a way of saying that it was unwelcome here.
Having very little rest, the family and mourners drank some coffee for energy before the long walk to the panteón (cemetery) the following morning.  As it is outside of town limits, but within a stone’s throw of La Yacata, often the funeral home arranges for public transport from mass to the cemetery, but as we had gone from the church back to the house the previous day, we were about half the distance already.
Another small band of mourners joined us for the walk from the house to the cemetery that morning.  I didn’t think to bring an umbrella for shade and so ended up with a headache and slight sunburn.  Our walk brought us past the courthouse.  Not one guard was outside, perhaps warned to stay inside, as the sight of a uniform might enrage the mourners.  But from the windows, they could watch us as we passed and take a good long look at what “one of their own” had done.  (See On Life and Liberty)
At the cemetery, the casket was placed in an open pavilion and opened for one last viewing while the crypt was prepared.  At this point, physically and emotionally drained, her daughter P fainted. She was moved to the shade and rubbing alcohol was applied to her face until she came around.
The children were distraught and took turns caressing and kissing her body.  I told my son that we would look, say our goodbyes and he could leave a flower with her body but that he should not touch her skin.  I didn’t want his last memory of his grandmother to be of her cold dead flesh, but of the warm embrace she gave him in the hospital when she said “My niño” (her special endearment for him) before slipping into a coma.   (See Parenting Challenge–When someone dies)
 IM000608
When the crypt was prepared, the sons carried the casket over the uneven ground, past the plots, to the corner where rows of crypts had been built.  The casket was slid into the middle row #19, about at eye level.  The cemetery workers bricked up and patched the hole while we looked on, again in the now midday sun.  I am surprised we didn’t have more casualties from heat stroke.  The wreaths were stacked against the wall and the flower arrangements placed nearby.  And that was that.  Nothing doing but to go home.
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14 Comments

Filed under Death and all its trappings

14 responses to “Mass and Burial Mexican style

  1. Mexican death culture is certainly different to our attitudes and rituals in the US. It is also interesting to consider how many Mexican immigrants want to return to their ‘home land’ when they die, and just how signifiant a issue that can be. Mexican culture means that it can be very important to return family remain to be laid to rest with family in a cemetery in Mexico. Yet transporting human remains is very expensive (can cost around $5,000), which is something that not many Mexican immigrants can afford. Although there are more affordable mortuary shipping to Mexico options, as we have outlined in our article on ‘What to do if you need to repatriate the body of your loved one from the United States to Mexico.

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