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Monday, October 29, 2012

Dodging & Fudging the Issue of Death and Dying

Cementerio de la Recoleta - Buenos Aires - Arg...
Cementerio de la Recoleta - Buenos Aires - Argentina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During my stay with a local Argentine couple, there were two occurrences of deaths that happened within the family. The first time, I didn't ask too many questions but assumed that they deal with death the way we do in North America. But the 2nd time around, a brief interaction with the girl that lived in the house led to a startling revelation. The conversation went like this:

"My grandmother passed away yesterday"

"Oh, I'm sorry to here that"   (me)

 "Thanks....yeah we are gonna go bury her today"

I walked away for a few brief minutes and then the conversation sank it and I went back to my housemate and asked her if when someone passes away in Argentine culture, it seems as if the funeral is the next day. She confirmed to me that in their culture, burial is very quick and can even happen on the same day.

It was then that I shed light on the fact that in North America, burial can happen up to a week or so after the passing of the person. She asked me what in the world we would be doing during that week. Fair question. I then explained that people are often preparing for the reception that happens after the funeral that will happen in someones home with food and drink where we talk about the life of the person.

And it was in that moment that I found out that receptions after a funeral are non existent in Argentine culture. Mourning is extremely internal and done privately. They don't get together and have drinks and food or talk about the life of the person. They bury their loved on the same day or the next day and then go home and mourn privately.

When I mentioned that we do funeral receptions in North America, my friend replied "I've seen those before in movies"  That's the closest she's ever come to a funeral reception, watching it in a movie. From this experience, I've come to the conclusion that Argentines approach death  and deal with it pragmatically and internally with little room for outward manifestation in public and next to no socialization. I can honestly say that death is an issue that Argentines neither fudge nor dodge (although I don't really know how pragmatic some Argentines can be to be paying thousands of $$$ just so that their loved one can rest under a massive stone angel in the Recoleta Cemetary)

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