Flow­ers via a stranger: Chileans com­pro­mise on ceme­tery vis­its

Kuwait Times - - Internatio­nal -

SAN­TI­AGO: Ev­ery year for the past 20, Rosa Maria Fuen­za­l­ida has vis­ited her mother’s grave on Mother’s Day with­out fail in the cen­tral Chilean city of Curico. She is one of mil­lions of peo­ple in Latin Amer­ica, where fam­ily is its own re­li­gion, who flock to take flo­ral of­fer­ings to the ceme­ter­ies where their moth­ers and grand­moth­ers are buried to show they are not for­got­ten. This year though, with Chileans self-iso­lat­ing as the new coro­n­avirus spreads around the coun­try, Rosa Maria re­lied on a stranger to take flow­ers to her mother’s grave.

Burial places through­out Chile an­nounced to wide­spread dis­may that they would not open on Mother’s Day. But Curico’s gen­eral ceme­tery, which or­di­nar­ily would have 15,000 visi­tors on Mother’s Day, of­fered a com­pro­mise. For three days in the run-up to Sun­day, it in­vited visi­tors to bring their flow­ers to the front gate on dif­fer­ent days, ac­cord­ing to the let­ters of their sur­names, for the bou­quets to be de­liv­ered for them to their loved ones’ final rest­ing place.

Those leav­ing bou­quets said they re­ceived a What­sapp mes­sage shortly af­ter­ward with a pho­to­graph of the flow­ers in place, with a note as­sur­ing them they had fresh wa­ter. Roberto Gar­cia, the ceme­tery’s direc­tor, said more than 1,000 peo­ple had brought flow­ers by Fri­day af­ter­noon. “To­day in Chile the truth is that it has been hard; we have peo­ple who have died, in Curico we have more than 45 cases of coro­n­avirus,” he said. “This acts as a ray of light. We are do­ing this with care and love for each of these fam­i­lies and es­pe­cially the chil­dren who have lost their moth­ers.”

Rosa Maria, an only child who was 21 when her mother died, said she had been struck by the lo­cal author­i­ties’ rec­og­niz­ing the prac­tice as “es­sen­tial” amid so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules across Chile. “De­spite the time that has passed, I still have a re­la­tion­ship with my mum and to be able to go to the ceme­tery reg­u­larly to see her is im­por­tant to me,” she said. “Ev­ery­thing is strange at the mo­ment, but to have some­one else take care of something so per­sonal was re­ally strange, but also re­ally lovely.”

In the cap­i­tal, San­ti­ago, where the largest ceme­ter­ies or­di­nar­ily at­tract tens of thou­sands of visi­tors with as­so­ci­ated road clo­sures and chaotic scenes, the na­tional fed­er­a­tion of ceme­tery work­ers this week urged peo­ple to stay away. Luis Yevenes, its pres­i­dent, told a lo­cal ra­dio sta­tion: “It’s for ev­ery­one’s safety. We need to stop this virus. It is sad to see the fu­neral corteges com­ing in with­out peo­ple, just the cof­fin, be­cause the rel­a­tives can­not go amid the quar­an­tine. We want to avoid more peo­ple go­ing through that pain.”

Around the re­gion, where many na­tions are only just near­ing the peak of in­fec­tions from the deadly virus, Mother’s Day will be a muted af­fair on Sun­day.

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