Burial Practices in El Salvador

by L-Johnson

A statue of Jesus Christ on an island off the coast of El Salvador. El Salvador is primarily a Christian country where the majority of the population is Roman Catholic (52.5%), while Protestantism represents 27.6% of the population.

In the Central American country of El Salvador when someone dies the body usually remains at their house and is not taken to a morgue or funeral home. Embalming if not often done as the people are typically buried soon after death. For those who can afford it, a family can pay a health promoter or someone else to come and inject formaldehyde into the body. The families in El Salvador are the ones that typically prepare the body for burial. A family member goes to a special casket store called a funereria, which is open at all hours. They dress the person, sometimes washing the body beforehand.

Processions involve a slow trip to the cemetery with trucks crowded with people and a pickup or other large truck carries the casket. People walk behind the truck with the casket, often singing songs along the way.

At the cemetery, the casket is placed under a concrete shelter that has a platform in the middle for the family and friends to gather around the open casket. It is not uncommon for there to be people to walking around trying to sell ice cream and plantain chips and rudely honking horns. The casket is carried to the grave, sometimes with people singing along the way and as it is put in the ground. In parts of El Salvador, there are no regulations on burials; the family can pick where they want the casket buried and arrive before the burial to dig the hole using shovels they brought from home. The grave is marked, sometimes with a temporary wooden cross until the family can return with a proper headstone.

Following the burial, for the next nine days, the deceased’s loved ones get together at the family’s house. At the end of the nine days, they serve tamales and coffee for everyone, an El Salvadorian tradition.

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