Saturday, May 14, 2011

Internment in Rio de los Bueyes

We went back down to Rio de los Bueyes – leaving the house about 11:30 to get there for the 12:30 commencement of the trip to the cemetery.

We got there a little late – but they had not left yet. They were waiting on the big truck that would carry the bulk of the people.

After about 15 minutes, they decided to leave without it. The loaded Jesús’ casket into the back of a pick up truck. Five people got into the bed of the truck with the casket and Eulalia and a grandchild got into the cab with the driver. Our pick up truck followed them - after a bunch of people hopped on of course.

It was me, Idalia, Blanca and Aminta in the cab of our truck, Alisha, Cecilia and Miguel in the back and a lot of others. Alisha later told me there were 22 people in our truck. Add the four of us in the cab.

I knew the road from Rio los Bueyes to La Barca was relatively flat and not too bad so I wasn’t too worried about the suspension of the truck. I also figured we’d be going slowly. And I was right. What normally would take about 15-20 minutes to drive between the two communities, took over an hour.

We followed the casket’s pick up the entire way. Fortunately for the people walking, about a block from the house, the big truck met us and about 50 or so folks hopped into that. There were also at least 4 pick up trucks full of people behind us – each loaded with people. Partway there we met another large flatbed full of people going to the internment and a little further on we picked up another dozen people who were waiting for the caravan to go by.

Word of mouth is incredible here. Jesús just died less than 24 hours prior. And here were all these people going to her internment. There were several people from Berlin as well as people from El Tablón, Corozal, Casa de Zinc, (probably more places) and it seemed like all the people from Rio los Bueyes were there! I would bet there were between 250 and 300 people at the cemetery.

When we finally arrived (and it was a very long and extremely hot and dusty ride and had I not been driving, I could have slept – as it was I was trying not to nod off in the heat with my hands on the wheel!  But then I thought - man - the people standing in the backs of the trucks have it way worse than I do!) When we finally got to the cemetery, I drove up the hill to the entrance so people could get out and then turned around and parked in the shade a little down the road.

By the time I got to the area, the coffin was already under the shaded ‘gazebo’ area – there is a pedestal of cement for folks to put their casket and the large lamina roof serves as a shady place for someone to say a few words, or to have the last viewing of their loved one.

We were there about 15 minutes – chatting with people. There was enough shade and a bit of a breeze so it wasn’t unbearable. One of the family members came up to us and they asked Blanca and Idalia to lead the singing at the gravesite. They were hesitant because they worried they would start crying. But ultimately, they sang.

6 men carried the coffin down the very steep and slippery path to the gravesite where the hole was already dug. The singing started as people were still carefully making their way down. The men started putting the rope around the casket to lower it into the grave.

And here there was a small glitch. The hole wasn’t big enough. So out came the shovels and they dug some more. No one seemed overly surprised or bothered by this. The singing continued on. And soon the sounds of dirt being shoveled on the casket could be heard along with the singing and then the prayer.

That is a unique combination of sounds.

There was no service per se – just a few songs and a long prayer. Then everyone headed up to the vehicles. We were not going back to the family’s house since we were now closer to the PanAmerican Highway. We headed back to Berlin in that direction instead of going all the way through the canton roads. It only took us about 50 minutes to get home. Going the other way would have been and hour and 15 at least. And a lot bumpier.

We were able to bring several people back to Berlin with us. Including two men who were selling popsicles and ice cream at the internment.

This is an acceptable thing at an internment – the selling of food and drink, ice cream, candy, banana chips … It isn’t considered tacky here.

It was a physically draining day. The oppressive heat and dust coupled with the very slow driving (after driving 50 bumpy minutes just to get to the family’s house in the first place – and then driving back to Berlin afterwards) wore me out. When we made it back, I went up to my room and stretched out on top of my bed – mostly to stretch my achy back – but I actually nodded off for about 10 minutes. By that time I was ready for a cup of coffee and to sit with the ladies of the Pastoral Team.

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