Guatemala Funeral Traditions

by K-Berens

Street scene in the small town of Chichicastenango, Guatemala with a graveyard in the background.

The majority of Guatemala’s population is Catholic, making up anywhere between 50 and 60%, followed closely by Protestant with 40%.

When a person passes away in Guatemala, they are typically buried hours after the death. Immediately after death a person arrives to bathe and dress the body. Most people are buried in a wooden coffin purchased in advance, and mourners bring candles to help them see and rum to drown their grief. As the body is lowered into the grave the mourners scream and weep louder and lash out. However, at the funeral of a child, people do not openly mourn. There is a legend that crying denies the soul a quick journey to heaven.

Every mourner throws a handful of earth into the grave, kissing it before they throw. Guatemalans fear the soul returning to haunt the village, and prevent this by placing the deceased’s treasured items with them in the grave in order to discourage the soul from returning to scare the people.

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