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  • Interview with Sofia Morales Virgen, Teresa Virgen Castro, and Efania Virgen Castro / Una Entrevista con Sofia Morales Virgen, Teresa Virgen Castro y Efania Virgen Castro
  • Charles H. Rowell and Marcus Jones
  • Interview with Sofia Morales Virgen, Teresa Virgen Castro, and Efania Virgen Castro
  • Charles H. Rowell and Marcus Jones

This interview was conducted on May 12, 2007, at the home of Sofia Morales Virgen in Mata Clara, Veracruz, Mexico.

ROWELL: When we visited you last year, your sister was ill. She had since passed. Will you talk about what you did to mark her passing? We are interested in the nature of ceremonies you hold for the dead in this community. How is the body treated here, after the person dies?

TERESA VIRGEN CASTRO: They dress her, right?

MORALES VIRGEN: Yes, they dress her. They put her in her casket. The people from the funeral home come and they prepare the body so it won't decompose. In the case of my sister, her body was in bad shape when she died. After they prepare the body, they close the casket; it remains closed until the time the person who will dress her comes. The casket is then opened so the shroud she'll take with her to the grave can be placed over her.

EFANIA VIRGEN CASTRO: She was dressed as the Virgin of Carmen.

MORALES VIRGEN: After the shroud is put in place, she isn't uncovered again. Later on, throughout the night, coffee, chocolate, and bread are offered to all the people who keep the family company during the wake. Some come, and others leave. Throughout the night, until five o'clock in the morning, people keep arriving, and they stay to take a nap and to keep us company. All through the night, through dawn, we have company. They never leave us alone. That's how we do wakes here.

Around eight o'clock we're left with very few people, mostly family and a few other people keeping us company. All night, we have people who keep us company. And the people who come bring us flowers, votive candles, or money to help us out with the burial. We go to the priest, and we ask for a Mass with the body. We present the body to the church so the deceased can have her Mass in person. If the burial plot isn't ready yet, we return home but we announce during Mass what time the body will be taken to the cemetery.

People start arriving to accompany us to the cemetery. At the cemetery, we recite a rosary. After the rosary, we sing a song to the deceased, and from there, she's taken to [End Page 64] the grave to be buried. After we return from the cemetery, on that same day, we recite a rosary in her name. We prepare the house for the people accompanying us and there are already others at the house. There are people who are accompanying the cross that represents the deceased. In our case, we had a lot of people already at the house and someone was on the lookout for the people coming back from the cemetery. When they see all the candlelight, they announce, "Mom, the cross is coming!" We all go outside to see the cross and those accompanying it.

JONES: This happens the same day the person dies?

MORALES VIRGEN: On the same day. The same day one dies-well, at least that's how it was when my aunt died. They prepared her body. She died at 4:00 p.m. and they prepared her around 5:00 p.m. so that she wouldn't decompose.

TERESA VIRGEN CASTRO: Not only is the deceased person's godmother carrying candles, so are the friends. And we go out to meet them. We make the sign of the cross and we kneel to receive the cross. And they're praying and singing as they arrive at the house. Because my aunt was sick for two months, when her burial cross arrived, it did not enter the house right away. We had to wait until her spirit, which was in her bed, would...


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