Funeral practices in Latin America are truly different than what we are accustomed to in North America. Most families prefer to have their visitation and service and disposition within 24 hours of the death. Most families choose to bury rather than cremate. Most cemetery plots are rented for 7 years and then the bones are reclaimed and placed in a communal ossuary. Most firms are open 24 hours a day to serve their community.
What is remarkable about all of these funeral professionals is that there is no formal education for any of their practices. There are no mortuary programs, no training in embalming, no college program to learn how to run a funeral business. They learn from others, they acquire skills on the job, they seek out any kind of training available to advance their knowledge.
ALPAR – Latin American Association of Cemeteries and Funeral Services– has devoted their organizational efforts to provide training for member firms all over the continent. Glenda Stansbury, adjunct instructor in the UCO Funeral Service Department and founder and trainer for Certified Funeral Celebrants with the InSight Institute, returned to Bogota, Colombia in August of this year to conduct the second Celebrant Training co-sponsored by ALPAR and ICCFA (International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association). This training was actually scheduled for March, 2020, but, of course, those plans had to be significantly postponed, so everyone was relieved that it was finally safe to hold the event.
Thirty-four participants from nine countries gathered for a 5-day experience of creating unique ceremonies for their families. To overcome the language barrier, 2 sets of translators sat in a soundproof booth at the back of the room translating the presentations into Spanish and Portuguese and the participants patiently sat with headphones to understand the resources and information that were being offered. Even though the cultures and mores and traditions are vastly diverse, everyone bonded through understanding the universal language of serving families during the most difficult days of their lives and celebrated their success at the end of the training.