Archive for the ‘Mexican Funeral’ Category

Semana Santa is the ultimate act of faith,
Performed by the community in public,
A series of one costumed re-enactment after another
Depicting each aspect of the last week of Jesus’ life.

At the Iglesia de San Antonio,
On the Thursday of the siete casas,
There is a re-enactment of the trial and sentencing.
The front of the church was decorated in palm trees and hills.
The apostles, in their colorful satin robes,
Spread themselves across the steps
Awaiting the Roman soldiers, Jesus and Pontious Pilot.
The women of Jerusalem sweep in, swaying and weeping.
The trial and sentencing is performed.

On Good Friday, in the city of Guanajuato,
There is a live re-enactment of Judas hanging himself.
He crawls up a hand made ladder,
Hooks his noose to a makeshift tree,
Attaches a rope and lets go.

Following Judas’ hanging,
The stations of the cross are performed.
Jesus receiving his cross,
The crown of thorns, his velvet cape.
His litter is carried by the brotherhood of penetentes,
Wearing purple burlap, heavy rope disciplinas and hoods.
They carry Jesus around the church 12 times,
One time for each station.
Thirty women in black dresses, veils and bare feet on cobblestones
Carry the heavy litter that holds Jesus’ Mother,
Mary, the Virgin of Sorrows.
As they move the litters to face each other,
She meets Jesus for the last time and words are exchanged.
The women are swaying back and forth, all the parishoners are crying.
Jesus’ face is wiped, his image is held in the cloth for all to see.
The women of Jerusalem walk behind supporting the Magdalena
Who wears purple and can barely keep herself upright.
In the final round, he is brought to the front of the church
For the crucifixion.

The participation and the show of faith is nothing short of impressive.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/166426465″>2010 Semana Santa, Guanajuato Mexico</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user43839345″>Suzanne da Rosa</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

A slideshow of photographs of the stations of the cross TO COME

On Easter sunday, in San Miguel,
There’s a little brevity and fun.
Paper mache Judas figures are blown up with fireworks
In front of the police station and to everyone’s delight

Blowing Up Judas from Suzanne da Rosa on Vimeo.

Blowing Up Judas2 from Suzanne da Rosa on Vimeo.

Blowing Up Judas 3 from Suzanne da Rosa on Vimeo.

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Tonight, the nine novenas ended.
The rosary was said, as it normally is
With songs to the Virgin Mary
Between the Our fathers and Hail Marys.
I came in a few minutes after it started
Standing room only, but Victoria,
Waves me over to the only seat left,
In front of the cross which lies on the floor,
And is to be lifted tonight.
Elvia, her aunt Lucinda, Sofia and her baby Chucho
Are on our side. Children are moving around.
Jesus’ mother and father,
Sisters and brothers sit across from us.

I have learned a couple of things this week.
The children carrying roses to the altar
Between each set of prayers
Only happens in the month of May,
Which is the month of the Virgin Mary.
The children line up in front of the altar
They are given a flower
To hold up high over their head.
Upon a certain song, they carry the rose
To the altar, cross themselves, return to the line.
They wait through the next Our Father
The next ten Hail Mary’s
Another song,
Then perform this over again.
The younger children usually start it
The younger teenagers who are a little shy,
Join in around the third misterio.
By the end, they are quietly nudging each other.
The older ones are quietly scolding the younger
Who are antsy and wiggling around.
One little girl, about four years old
Is wearing tiny pink high heels
With big lace ruffled socks
Which makes Elvia laugh out loud.

After the rosary
The elevation of the cross ceremony begins.
Elvia and her five children,
Jesus’ five brothers and three sisters,
His mother and father,
Gather around the cal/lime cross (see this post for photo)
Which sits on the concrete patio floor.
The cross is decorated tonight.
Roses, mums and gladiola blooms rest on top of the cross.
There is a large circle of minature mums around it,
Mixed with red, cream and blush roses,
Ending with a string of roses at the bottom.
There is a small cross of miniature mums below that,
Along with five candles in the shape of a cross.

As specific songs are sung,
Elvia first kneels next to the cross,
Holding a tiny sheet metal dust pan
A two inch paint brush, and waits for Victoria
To take a red gladiola stem
And divide the cross into sections.
The first is for Elvia,
She sweeps it into the dust pan
Places that into a Christmas cookie tin
While Ana Karin, her daughter,
Weeps silently next to me.
She is looking upwards to the skylight
With a look not too dissimilar
Of the Virgin Dolorosa.

Next, Jesus’ father kneels, crosses himself
Gently sweeps the cross and flowers
Places them in the tin.
Jesus’ mother, who is not well
Sits in a chair, her hand covering her face,
She looks as though she could just give up
At any moment.
Beto’s turn is next,
He crosses himself, says a prayer,
Kisses his hand
Touches the ashes with the kiss.
The younger girls take their turns,
They are not so emotional
And Lupita, who is four, is grinning away
As she puts flowers in with the ashes.
Jesus’ brothers and sisters go next,
Followed by his mother,
Who is supported by her sons,
To place the tiny cross of flowers,
Which is left for last, in the tin.
All the while the singing continues,
There is quiet weeping throughout the room.
Although I have stopped crying,
It is so hot that I am sopping wet,
As are the women next to me and across.
I can’t tell where the tears end
And the heat begins,
Whether I am still crying
Or sweating tears from my whole body.

A la barella (sp?) is sung,
My favorite of all the songs.
Victoria and Beto singing loudly
Arms in the air, palms up,
As everyone takes their seat,
Elvia places the candles,
The tin that holds the cross and flowers
On the altar.
It will be taken to the church tomorrow night
For the final mass and blessing
Before going to the panteon,
To be spread on his grave.

Finally, one last song
Sube el cielo – Climb to the sky
As everyone is shepherded to the roof top
Singing sube el cielo
Which is meant to also help
The soul of Jesus, whose nickname is Kiro,
Rise to the heavens.
On the roof top,
Which represents heaven tonight,
The tables are set for 200 people
We are served pozole,
Each cup with a single arbol chile in it
Coca cola,
A meat dish with liver, and something
That looks like stomach lining,
Served with red Mexican rice,
Wrapped in pink and purple sweet tortillas.
I was told the name of the dish,
Which was surprisingly delicious,
Then promptly forgot  what it  is called.
The flavors reminded me of a kidney pie
That my mother made,
When I was a little girl.

Afterwards, people sit for a long time
Talking or staring into space
Tired and sad
Except for Kiro’s father
Who stands the entire time
Smiling and greeting everyone
Looking around the rooftop
Appearing to be very calm and satisfied
That he had done everything he could
For his son’s departure.

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Tonight I went out at 6pm
To go to Novena number four,
The rosary for Elvia’s husband, Jesus. (hay-sus)
Leaving our house in Santa Julia
I headed down Ignacio Allende
To Avenida Guadalupe,
Along the stinky creek,
Those of you who live here
Know which creek I’m talking about
Then up Canal, around the Jardin
Across and down Relox
Past Insurgente to the Novena.

Aside from the boys playing soccer
In the empty dusty lot on the corner
The streets were virtually empty of traffic.
Normally, you can walk faster
Than you can drive this time of day.
It’s pretty amazing to see the town
At a complete standstill.
Here’s a video of the streets
At rush hour, 6pm,
When cars are usually
Bumper to bumper
On every single one of these streets.

I think that half of San Miguel
Was here at the Novena.
In a long narrow hallway,
Out the door and onto the street
The people stood,
With three times as many people
Going the other direction behind me
On the terraza above, even more.
Altogether, there are about 150 people
For the rosary,
For day number four
The day the little children
Place flor de Maria
Better known in English as Statice
On the Altar.
Below, my neighbor Petra
Places flowers on the altar
The white cross,
Made from cal/lime powder
On the floor
With Candles

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After Maricela’s funeral
The nine days of Novenas
Are said at Petra’s house.
7:30 every night,
With a meal provided afterwards.
The singing begins at 7pm
A hundred or more people show up
Every night.

There is something good to be said
For praying together
With a large group of people
For nine days after a burial.
All the sadness and grief you have
Gets directed through the rosary,
Directed at God for help.
You see all the people you will see
In your daily life, each day.
There will be few surprise encounters
In the coming months,
Of those who did not know.

Victoria, Petra’s first cousin
Has been running the rosaries,
So to speak.



She has a calling directly from God.
You would see that too,
If you were there.
She is about 65-70 years old
Usually wears turqouoise
And when she turns her back
To pray into the room,
Where Maricela’s altar is,
Her braid is held with a barrett
That looks like two,
Aluminum wrapped
Sticks of chewing gum
With a wrapper that has blue and white flowers
With the words ‘chewing gum across it.
She is the least likely person  in the room
To be chewing gum.

She has a voice
That cuts through all the rest
When she leads the prayers
When she sings, it is so clear,
The words so simple,
That it is easy to sing along
Even for us gringos.
You would not ever question
Her devotion or her dedication
To interceding on the behalf of God
For all of us.

Days number one and two
Go smoothly, uneventful even.
On day three,
It begins to rain in the patio,
Where most of us are sitting.
At first it is little drops,
Then a little more.
John and I look at each other,
Wondering when or if
People will decide to move,
Where they will go to,
If the service will stop.
No one else seems to notice,
And stopping isn’t an option.
All of a sudden a bunch of umbrellas
Come out from under seats
Opening all at once.
The singing continues
The prayers are finished,
Everyone eats under umbrellas
In the light rain.

The fourth night
The rain threatens,
But Luis has strung a blue plastic tarp
Over the entire patio.
There is a lot of wind
Which catches up in the tarp
Making it snap and bang
Throughout the rosary.
No one seems to pay attention to it.

The fifth night
The weather is normal
More than 100 people are gathered
Petra has about 10 birdcages
Surrounding her patio, all uncovered.
There is a bird which looks like a thrush
But has the sound of a mocking bird.
About half way through,
It begins cackling and whistling
So loudly that all the children (and us)
Turn around to watch.
No one stops to ask someone to cover it.
Victoria just sings and talks louder
With more clarity between each word
And we get through the service.

Because I want to understand what I am doing
I asked Victoria where to buy the novenaria.
The church bookstore, of course,
So I bought one for funerals,
Which includes the pre-burial care
To be given to the corpse.
The Novenas,
The after care
The words to sing.
I feel a little more prepared
With the words in front of me
For the sixth night.

However, problem is
There are about five or six of these books
Each one a little different,
And I don’t have the right book,
Only parts of it work with our rosary.
We are flipping the pages back and forth
Looking for the prayers, the mysterios
Not only that, but which mysterios,
As there are three distinctly different ones
For different days of the week.
We are lost and it’s easier to just listen,
Than to keep flipping pages
Hoping do discover where we are,
Working with the rhythm of the words and songs
To stay in synch.

After it is over,
I tell Victoria I have bought the book

But it does not follow her book.
She tells me that’s because there are several,
The relgious,
The meditative
The one with the 9 days
Which is what I have.
There may even be more than three.
She is very animated,
Excited about my book,
The same one that I am
Terribly disappointed in.
I am hoping to get the title of hers
She gives me homework to do, insisting,
That I will read with her
The following night.
The thought of it scares me
But at the same time
I stand there saying yes, of course,
Which pages, which passages.
Against my will, but with my consent
I agree, and go home wondering
How she got me to agree.

The next day, I read my lines at home
She says I will read
Only the first two lines
Before each of the five Misterios Dolorosos.
Not much really, but when the evening comes
And I am standing before the group
She points to the paragraphs that follow the headings
Shakes her head yes while she is singing,
Smiles, raises her hands to the sky, palms up,
As if God has ordained it
I have been tricked into reading
The entire five Misterios Dolorosos,
Which I understand, but did not practice.

At the end of the rosario
She thanks me, the extranjero, their neighbor,
Who wished to participate in their service
Thanking me for reading,
Asking the congregation if they all understood me?
Everyone shakes their head yes,
No one laughed or snickered,
Surprisingly, I’m not embarassed
Although I mispronounced a couple of words,
We move on to the final glorias and Aleluyas,
The final songs, which are directed tonight
At the scores of children who are here.

Afterwards, she catches both John and me
Saying that the blessing and glory of God
Is with us and please pass your book for a moment.
She turns to the Litanias Lauretanias,
Which she suggests that John read, tomorrow.
He is shaking his head no,
Waving his hands as if to say no
Being the ultimate picture of politeness
While he agrees to do it
If I read them with him.
How did she do it?

Day Eight
Bringing blessings of the father.
It’s almost over, one more day after this.
The rosary is said while children,
Are pushing each other on their seats
Playing something akin to musical chairs.
Elvia, Petra’s daughter,
Who has five children of her own,
Sits next to these little ruffians
Singing clearly and loudly,
Not scolding
Not placing their hands in their laps
Not telling them they will be banished
Should they continue to misbehave,
But by setting an example,
With her loud clear singing,
Of how they are to behave in a rosary.
It takes all of their effort to conform
But they do it.

The litanys are at the end
We are called up and read them off
‘Senor, ten piedad de ella’
‘Dios padre celestial’ – ten pieda de ella
Santa Maria, Madre de Jesucristo, Virgen poderosa,
Casa de Oro, Torre de David, Estrella de la manana…..
When it is over, Victoria, on our behalf,
Raises her arms in the air
Asking all to raise their right hand
Asking that they all understood
That they understood we are here
In community with them.
Heads are shaking yes, hands are raised
Resucito, Aleluya are sung and food is served.
Tomorrow is day nine,
There is a mass at 11 am at the Parroquia
Then one last novena for Maricela
Life will go back to normal.

Somehow, this is all making me come to terms
With my Catholic upbringing
In a way which I can understand
How it could have been,
How it should have been.

At 7:30 this morning our doorbell rang.
Luis, Petra’s son is at the door.
He is so sorry to tell us
That Elvia’s husband, Jesus,
Father of her five children, including Beto,
Who we have a special place in our hearts for,
Was murdered near their home last night.
Something to do with being robbed
He was found
By their 11 year old daughter Ana Karin
Who ran hysterically back to Petra’s
To bring her uncles to help.

His body is at the Velatorio San Francisco,
Luis asks if we will come by after the mass for Maricela.
We walk to town to clear our heads,
Wondering how Elvia will manage with five children,
Wondering how they will do Maricela’s mass,
The traditional family meal after the mass,
How Beto and his sisters will handle this,
Another funeral,
An all night vigil at the velatorio
The walk to the panteon tomorrow
The nine more days of Novenas
Then moving back into life,
Coming to terms with what happened.

The mass was held for Maricela.
Victoria is frantically looking back
Between the choir and the arriving priest
They have forgotten the choir.
How can this be?
So Victoria, bless her, led the singing
Every chair was filled for Maricela and now Jesus.
Afterwards, we walked to the velatorio
We paid our respects to Elvia and the family.
Jesus’ family has taken charge of this burial
The rosary is chanted so quickly
I cannot keep up with even the simplest of prayers.
It is mesmerizing to listen to it.
We seem to be living
In a sort of suspended time
Nothing is more important than this, right now.

After a good cry with Petra
She wipes her face with her apron
And says ‘let’s go eat’, I’ve made mole’
‘We’ll come back later’
The family arrives at Petras by the carload
But no one has the key to the house.
They have to break in
To have the final meal and gathering
For Maricela.
The mole is the best we have ever had
Everyone is quietly talking,
Sunk back into their chairs
Absorbing this impossible thing
That has happened to Jesus.
John asks ‘what is the word for a nap?’
‘Siesta’ I say,
To which he hits himself up the side of the head
As if to say how stupid to forget that.

After thanking everyone for everything,
We, along with everyone else,
Make a donation for the events
That Elvia will be responsible for,
And go home for that nap.
At 7:30, the ninth and last Novena will be said,
Then, a visit to the velatorio,
Where we will not spend the night,
But pay our respects, before going
To the mass and burial tomorrow.

The last Novena
Begins right on time at 7:30.
Unlike the rest of the Novenas,
There are no songs at the beginning
Just the rosary
In which Victoria says the first part
Of the hail Marys
We say the rest.
There are well over 100 people here,
Spilling into the streets.
Because of Jesus’ murder,
A day of going back and forth
From the velatorio where his body lies
And Petra’s house
Where she is to perform the final ritual
For Maricela’s death and burial
It is somber, and with many tears.
John and I sat in the back,
At my insistance, and because
I did not wish to participate today.
I told John not to look right at Victoria
Hoping not to be discovered.
No luck, however, as she immediately
Called us to the front
Moved two children from chairs
And told us to sit down.
It will only be the litany tonight.

After the litany,
The final ceremony,
Moving the white powder cross
From it’s cardboard on the floor,
To a clay box filled with white roses
And the blessing of the cross for her grave
Which we are told was made by Jesus
The day he died, is carried out
Amidst singing of verses
Of a relgious hymn
Sung by all
To bless the rising of the cross.
Final tears are shed,
By entire family
Who one by one
Leave and go to the kitchen
To serve tacos to all of us.

We all crawl into cars
Head to the velatorio,
To sing and pray to Jesus.
We expect to see about a hundred people
But there are literally hundreds
Say two to three hundred people, maybe more,
Everyone singing along with the estudantinos,
Who are young singers wearing midieval clothing,
Playing traditional instruments,
All of us sing along.
It is so moving and Elvia, who in a typical US memorial
Would be sitting up front, near the casket
Is outside, falling into the arms
Of each new person who arrives
Crying her eyes out.

I, myself, always try to do everything I can
To keep myself from crying in situations like this
I don’t like to cry in public places
I am afraid I will never stop, so I
I bite my lip
I sing
I take a few deep breaths
Bite my lip again
I surely don’t look at people who are crying
Especially children with their parents,
I don’t let myself wonder how Elvia will manage
As that is a topic in itself,
For a lot of crying at this moment.
The methods for not crying
Must be managed,
Moment to moment,
Yet even I cannot stop myself.

After a while,
After drinks and sweet breads,
We go inside to recite a rosary
And to view the body.
We are now a little group,
Her elderly women friends
Her cousins
Relatives of cousins
And us.
I don’t know what I was expecting
Perhaps something beautiful,
Like the rose covered body of Maricela
But Jesus, was covered from the neck down
In white tucked satin,
Only his face showing
Under glass, with a framed photo
Of Jesus Christ wearing
A crown of thorns
On his chest.
Resting against the glass
Next to his face,
Is a torn photograph of him
At a much younger age, placed there
By a friend earlier in the day.
It is so surreal looking
That is catches me by surprise.
John holds his hands in prayer and bows.
I cross myself,
We say our goodbyes, and go home at midnight,
Where I pull out my antidote to it all,
The current book I am reading:
‘Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff,
Christ’s Childhood Pal’
An irreverant look at Christ’s forgotten years
Age 0-30 by Christopher Moore,
Which makes me laugh out loud.

This morning,
I have agreed to take Beto
To the Patronato de Ninos
To have his jaw,
Which appears to have a tumor,
But which is salivery gland swelling
To be looked at.
Although he is to carry his father’s casket at noon
He does not want to miss this appointment
Which was made last week.
I can hardly believe he wants to do this.
Afterwards, he is in the system,
He will only have to pay
Ten pesos a visit to have this operation,
Something he can manage himself.
A positive note in an otherwise
Very depressing two weeks for him
And he’s off to pick up his tuxedo.

At noon, the church,
Which holds five hundred people on the benches
Is full, plus three people deep on each side
Standing room only in the naves and back.
The priest walks from the front of the church
To the casket which is waiting at the door.
It is blessed with holy water
And the procession of the casket
To the altar
Carried by Beto, two of Petra’s sons,
Seven of Jesus’ brothers,
There are prayers, orations, and singing.
At the end,
The priest says something I have never heard before:
‘Senor Jesus, que descansa en el bosque del paz’
‘Jesus, that you may rest in a forest of peace’
A beautiful thought for the end of the service.

As the casket reaches the door,
Mariachis are in a half circle
To accept the procession, singing
Entre sus manos, esta mi vida senor
“Into your hands, (Jesus) is my life
A beautiful sad melody
During which the mariachis turn
To lead the casket, and the people
Through town,
To the cemetery and the burial.

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While we were all busy Easter Sunday
Watching Judas be blown up
Daughter of my neighbor and friend, Petra,
Died, age 39.

Tuesday, Petra and I had a good cry together
The bread truck came
Bread and pastries were picked out
For the funeral, the rosaries
the prayers and the nine novenas.
Because Petra is our neighborhood tamale lady,
There are no more tamales on the corner
Until the services are over.

The family that lives nearby begins to arrive
Maricela’s body
And 25 family members from the USA
Will fly in Thursday.
Food is cooked
People stop by
Crying is heard throughout the day
Upon the arrival of every new person.
Chairs start arriving on Wednesday
We loan our fans to keep the body cool,
As well as benches and chairs.

There must be twenty grandchildren
Running around the neighborhood
Playing dolls, talking and laughing
Clacking those annoying ball toys

While I have no real idea
Of exactly how to handle my part
Petra is my good friend
Who I sit with
On the step outside her house
On hot nights, for small visits.
So I bake meals for the family,
Cookies and fruit salad,
Spaghetti for the funeral

On Thursday,
The day that family and Maricela fly in
President Obama arrives with them.
They are held in the air over Mexico City
Circling for an hour and a half
While Air Force One fighter jets,
Which they can see from the plane,
Clear the air and escort them in.
This is a nice story they will be able to tell
As the years go by.

Their arrival time here
Was to have been 6pm
At four, we hear that the delay
Will be longer than anticipated
Due to the larger than anticipated
Pile of paperwork to import a body
The wake will not begin until 9pm
But people arrive anyway
To pay respects and pray.
The courtyard is set up theatre style
The room that the body is to be laid out in
Has a red velvet curtain on one wall
A large pewter statue of Jesus
Candles and flowers
More flowers
A piece of cardboard
Taped to the floor
With white powder
Two inches deep
In the shape of a cross
A mystery we don’t yet understand.
The casket will lay over this.
More and more flowers arrive.

At 7pm, the singing begins
Between bouts of tears
Petra and others lead the songs
That will bring Maricela here.
There is worry that she will be held up
In airport customs.
Prayers are being said
More prayers
More songs
Crying and wailing
As more people arrive.
Kids are playing in the street
People go in for a while
Come back out on the street
The crowd grows.

Tonight entire families come
Different from other days
Where there will be more women than men
For the 9 days of rosaries that will follow.
At 9pm there is word.
They have arrived at the veladoras
The body is being prepared
She is dressed in her pearl laden
Wedding gown and floral veil
Laid out in a white casket.

More prayers, more tears.
It has turned into a full blown ritual
Arrivals of family and friends
Lighting of candles
Prayers, songs, prayers songs
Tears and wails
Prayers and songs.
At 10 they call from the highway
And will be here momentarily
The anticipation is high
There are about 100 people in the street
As many, if not more, inside
It is like waiting
For a baby to be born.
Tiny elderly women and men
Families with children
Teenagers and babies
And us.

The hearse
Pulls up in front of the house
Petra and her daughters
And their daughters
Are beside themselves crying
As the casket is removed
And placed in front of the altar
Everyone moves aside
As the entire family
Gathers around the altar
Opens the casket, and cry together.

In the courtyard
The women begin singing
Prayers to Mary
Songs to Jesus
To the holy spirit
To all the saints
To all the animals and bird
To open their arms to her.
There isn’t a dry eye in the house.
The neighbors and friends
Pass by the body, crossing themselves
The rosary begins
All the hail Mary’s
Our father’s
Prayers I don’t understand in Spanish
Orations seeking permission
To intercede on the behalf of God
For Maricela.

This goes on the entire night
The body is not left alone
Circles of prayer and song
Petra’s generation of friends,
A group of women her age
Her long time friends
Show up at 1am.
It starts all over again
The tears and wails
The Prayers
The Rosary
Food, which seems to calm everyone
And just when you think
The tears are gone
Someone new arrives
And it begins again.
The cycle of grief over and over.
Someone reads the names
Of all the saints
All the Virgins
The holy spirit
All the elements
All the animals
To a response after each one
‘Ruega por ella
‘Pray for her’

At 2am
We went across the street
To our house to sleep
There are so many people
At their house –
They cannot possibly
All take showers
Or have a bit of rest and quiet
So we gave them our house key
Something we have never done
So they can come through as needed
Throughout the rest of the night
To shower and clean up
While we sleep.

The barriers are breaking down
No one feels like just neighbors anymore
It’s more like a big family
Whose job it is to help each other
Through something big.

I am awake at 6:30
I make fruit salad
Two large papayas
Nine mangos
Eight Bananas
Seven Apples
It makes two very large bowls of fruit
Which I take over with yoghurt and granola.
A few had gone to sleep
But others were sitting with Maricela
Praying and talking quietly.

I pass by Maricela
For my last goodbye.
Roses had been placed
In the coffin,
Covering her entire body
She is gorgeous.

I told everyone
Just come over when you need a shower
The door is unlocked.
One by one the women and girls
Just walk in and go take a shower
It’s so funny to open our house that way
Americans don’t open their houses here,
But it feels good and right and everyone
Is very appreciative and kind

10 AM
The singing is loud so all will hear
The last rosary begins
The chairs are filled
People are in the street
The family gathers around the Altar
With Maricela who will make
Her last voyage through town
Her last mass
Her last walk past the Jardin
Her last view of the Parroquia
Down Zacateros and the Ancha
To the cemetery.

Just when you think you are cried out
Songs are being sung
Prayers, chants and orations
People giving the sign of the cross
Over and over
As Maricela’s husband and children
My friend Petra and her children
Say their last goodbyes
And the coffin is closed.

Petra’s cousin Victoria
Leads the singing
In a voice so crisp and clear.
The men take over
Lift the coffin
Carry it out the door
Down the steps
More men in the street
Holding them on the walkway
So they don’t slip off
How do people still sing
When the tears are so strong?

We fall in behind the hearse
About 75 of us
Following the words of Victoria
And the songs that go with the orations
On the 25 minute walk to the church
Where mass is said
Communion given
Songs are sung
Maricela is offered to God.

Petra’s many sons
Have hired a mariachi band
To lead the way to the cemetery
Which is a surprise for her
As she loves Mariachis.
By now, there are about 300 of us
The procession covers over one whole block
As we pass by the Parroquia
And wind our way to the panteon
Enjoying the lightness
Of the mariachi music
Noticing how quiet the streets are
How all the men standing in doorways
Take off their hats
Place them on their chests
While the women cross themselves
And the Americans take pictures.
It’s another view
Being inside the procession.

It is a relief to be at the cemetery.
It’s hot, everyone’s tired
Half the people are sunburned
The coffin is carried to the gravesite
The opening is not large enough
The diggers make it larger
While we wait
The mariachis are a blessing
It goes so fast
Soon the hole is big enough.
No prayers are said at the gravesite
Which is a surprise to me
I was expecting another rosary.
The coffin is dropped down
And immediately,
Without prayer,
The dirt hits the top of a coffin
With a thud,
Which prompts the crying
Followed by flowers
Mariachi songs
A mixture of beauty
And the finality
Of a life.

Everyone is crying
Mariachis are playing sad songs
Maricela’s daughter
Is holding the framed picture of her mother
Standing with her father, and brother.
The gravesite is decorated
With large standing arrangements,
Smaller bouquets and individual arrangements,
All facing inward for Maricela to see.
Young boys assist the grave diggers
By splashing water from buckets
Getting people’s feet wet
While they water the flowers.

When it is all decorated,
We all stand around
Listening to the music.
The mariachis play a song
Which I am not familiar with
But a song that makes the family
Clap and sing.
The men, who do not cry openly
All have tears streaming down

This part is over
Everyone is exhausted
There have been a hundred and one
Ways to unlock your grief
If one doesn’t work
Another certainly will,
Whether it be a person,
A prayer
A memory
Or watching someone else be moved,
They just keep at it
Until it happens.

Back at the house
There is a TON of food
Large bottles of soda sit on all the tables
Tequila is being poured discreetly
In the kitchen, and delivered
To the men at tables
Who suck on a lime
And empty their cup.

An altar is set up
In the room that Maricela’s coffin was
The cardboard with the white cross
Which was under the coffin
Holds candles, tostadas and drinks.
Maricela’s photo is placed on the table
Along with flower arrangements
That were held back for this altar.
A rosary is draped over the photo
A photo of her husband, son and daughter
Sits next to hers.
This is where the rosaries
The Novenas for the next nine days
Will be held.

More to come…

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