The Washington Post

A funeral home’s specialty: Dioramas of the (propped up) dead

The body of Georgina Chervony Lloren. (AP/Ricardo Arduengo)

After Georgina Chervony Lloren died of natural causes on Sunday at 80, her wake on Monday went just as she imagined: Her body was propped up on her red-cushioned rocking chair, surrounded by plants and flowers, wearing her wedding gown from her second marriage 32 years ago.

This odd request is nothing new for the Marin Funeral Home in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s kind of like the film “Weekend at Bernie’s” except for the fact that Bernie didn’t ask to be propped up at his own party. These people — or at least their families — want it this way:

Christopher Rivera
23-year-old boxer Christopher Rivera was propped up on Jan. 31, 2014, in a fake boxing ring during his wake at a rec center in the public housing project where he lived in San Juan. Rivera told his family that he wanted his funeral to reference his boxing career.

The body of boxer Christopher Rivera. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

Angel Pantoja Medina
The last wish of Angel Pantoja Medina’s was to remain standing. During his 2008 wake, Medina’s body stood erect and was leaned against a wall by his coffin in his mother’s home in San Juan.

The body of Angel Pantoja Medina. (Juan Alicea Marcado/El Nuevo Dia/AP)

David Morales Colon:
David Morales Colon, 22, asked his family to have his body dressed in biking gear and placed on top of his Honda CBR600.


Frances Robles of McClatchy Newspapers explained:

It’s “dubbed el muerto parao — dead man standing.”

These “exotic wakes” caused such a sensation that authorities including the Department of Health and the state attorney started poring over the penal code. Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives convened special hearings. The funeral home owners association held an emergency board meeting.

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.

“I see it as a challenge to the authorities: ‘You killed me, but you didn’t knock me down,’ said Jorge Lugo Ramirez, president of the Puerto Rico Funeral Home Assn. “These kinds of people are surrounded by easy money and guns. We can’t be promoting that.” …

But Lugo acknowledges that people have been abuzz about it, requesting funerals on bikes, cars or buses they drove for a living. “I guess then we’d have to conduct the wake in the parking lot,” he said with a laugh.

Technically speaking, Lugo was impressed.

“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.”


Related Content:

Nick Kirkpatrick is a digital photo editor at The Washington Post. Follow him on Instagram or on Twitter.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
Unconventional warfare with a side of ale
It's in the details: Five ways to enhance your kitchen makeover
Play Videos
Drawing as an act of defiance
A fighter pilot helmet with 360 degrees of sky
Border collies: A 'mouse trap' for geese on the National Mall
Play Videos
Bao: The signature dish of San Francisco
This man's job is binge-watching for Netflix
What you need to know about Planned Parenthood
Play Videos
How to save and spend money at college
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
Europe's migrant crisis, explained
Next Story
Gail Sullivan · May 27, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.