Customs

Death, Mourning and Burial in Cuzco

takng the Coffin to the Cemetery

Not infrequently people die in the city of Cuzco. This may be due to sickness or natural causes, but there is also vandalism and violence. In the last few years it seems vandalism is on the rise.

The consequences of this violence do not seem to impact those who do it. They do not care about the tears of family members nor, especially, of the many mothers who suffer the most and, sometimes, even decide to accompany their child to the next world.

It is very sad to see an entire family dressed in black, standing by a their loved ones’ coffin. Before putting him in the coffin first they bathe the body and then dress it in the clothing the person liked most in life. Only then to they place him in the coffin in order to sit with the body. The family invites all their friends and family members to come and sit with the body offering each other hot ponche and anisette. In Spanish we call this a velada.

After the velada comes the burial. People gather the day after the velada at around ten in the morning they carry the flowers and the men carry the coffin. They first make a despedida, a goodbye to the neighborhood in which saw the person born. With a live band accompanying them they march around the neighborhood and then take the coffin to the cemetery where it will be buried.

A Group of Friends in the Cemetery (Hebert Huamani Jara)
A Group of Friends in the Cemetery (Hebert Huamani Jara)

Once in the cemetery everyone gathers around the coffin crying, dancing and singing they now place the dead one in his grave. This will be the last time they will see their loved one. Once he is in his niche in a multilevel cemetery, or beneath the ground in the garden cemeteries, people start drinking, they consume a lot of chicha and beer in order to mark the departure with joy now that their loved one will only be in the memories of his friends and family.

Finally, after the burial, on the next day, they carry out a mass in honor of the departed one and in this way pray for him and say goodbye with honor to that being who accompanied them for a time.

 

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