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An article by Raquel Reichard for Latina.

The funeral of Puerto Rican man Fernando de Jesús Díaz Beato, whose fully dressed corpse was propped on a chair with eyes opened and a cigarette in hand, had a lot of people in the U.S. commenting on how “creepy” or “strange” the memorial service was.

But as bizarre as the funeral might have seemed to U.S. eyes, the deceased’s loved ones felt more comfort saying goodbye to their cherished son, brother or friend “as he was” as opposed to confined to a tight casket.

Moral of the story: what’s “eerie” to Westerners can hold real meaning for other folks. Keep that in mind before getting judgmental about these not-so-American-Christian after-death traditions and stories from Latin America.

Here’s a sampling . . .

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A more recent practice is taking place in Puerto Rico, where more families are opting for corpses that look alive at their funerals. The Marin Funeral Home creates thematic wakes, where the departed is dressed and propped up to appear as if they are engaging in activities like playing dominoes, riding a motorcycle or rocking in a chair alive, just as they would if they were alive.

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In Colombia, African-descended communities along the South American country’s coast put together celebratory services for babies that pass away. It is believed that the souls of the little ones can’t enter heaven if their loved ones are sad, so the spirit of the babies stay for the service to make sure it’s filled with cheer. It’s an energetic scene filled with music and dance. Sometimes, the body of the baby, wrapped in all white to ensure its purity, is passed from person to person, who can’t stop dancing.

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