Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Puerto Rican funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Filipino ethnic groups’ funeral traditions and Kikuyu people of Kenya funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
Puerto Rico is a predominately Christian country, with 69.7% of the population identifying as Christian, 25.1% as Protestant, and 1.9% as other Christian denominations. The other small percentage of the population either identifies with another religion or as non-religious.
Before a Puerto Rican funeral, they have a wake where everyone gathers around the body and prays for the soul to get into heaven. During the all-night wake, people may come and go as they please. However, those who were close to the deceased usually stay all night, pray the rosary, and burn candles.
Puerto Rican Funeral Customs
A Puerto Rican funeral typically follows Christian funeral traditions, but also may have cultural influences. Before the burial, there is a Christian funeral service. Mourners also may give donations to the grieving family and take pictures of the deceased. This is done to preserve their death as an important event in the family’s history and the deceased’s rite of passage.
A funeral tradition that’s gaining popularity in Puerto Rico and other places is standing funerals, also known as extreme embalming. For this tradition, they pose the deceased in a way that reflects the life they lived. For example, some families had the deceased sitting playing games, riding a motorcycle, or dressed up as a superhero. This is a unique way to honor their life instead of presenting them in the casket for the viewing.
After the funeral service, there is a prayer period that typically lasts nine days. For this period, everyone gathers at the deceased’s house to pray for them.