Angel Luis Pantojas was 6 when he saw his slain father's body in a casket and declared: Not me. At my wake, people will see me on my feet.Text from the Los Angeles Times. Photos: "Picha na habari kwa toka Associated Press (AP)", via The Way You See The Problem is the Problem.
So when he was shot 11 times, twice in the face, and tossed over a bridge in his underwear 18 years later, Pantojas got his wish. Pantojas' family tethered his corpse to the wall, where streams of strangers came from throughout Puerto Rico to see the latest curiosity they dubbed el muerto parao — dead man standing...
"All sorts of people came here to see him — lawyers, judges. Everyone was talking, saying things like, 'For my wake, I want to be in my recliner with a cup of coffee.' "
The buzz eventually faded, until last month, when David Morales Colon, another young homicide victim from the neighborhood, was embalmed hunched over on his motorcycle...
But even as the funeral directors decry exotic wakes as sacrilegious offenses to tradition, this much appears to be clear: The practice is legal. And when a third Puerto Rican man was embalmed on a motorcycle in Philadelphia last week, the trend, to experts' dismay, had come to be seen as a fad in a subculture marked by violence and bravado...
"As a professional, I had to admire the work," he said. "The funeral director said she had a secret formula. As an embalmer, let me tell you: It should not be secret. I would like to know how they did it."
When it was revealed that she does not have an embalmer's license, Marin hired a lawyer and declined further interviews, although she later said that the work was contracted to a licensed embalmer. Morales' family also declined to discuss it.
Cultural anthropologist Melba Sanchez, author of the Spanish-language book "Death: Social Aspects and Contemporary Ethics," said the funeral directors shouldn't be in such a tizzy. They should know that funeral traditions change with the years and have evolved to suit individual tastes.
23 June 2010
"El muerto parao" — "Dead man standing"