3 Things You Need To Know About Hispanic FuneralsNovember 2nd, 2016
Every culture has their own unique traditions and customs that they associate with funerals, whether it’s the type of service that they choose to have, or even the length of the celebration process. As a funeral professional, you are in the business of giving people meaningful funeral and memorial services… no matter what their background may be. So it’s important that you know the right way to do that for families of different backgrounds and traditions.
One community that funeral professionals should pay special attention to is the Hispanic community. Hispanic-Americans are a massive part of the United States’ population, making up about 1 of 6 residents nationwide. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that “by 2060, one-third of citizens will be Hispanic.”
So what does that have to do with you? Well, as a funeral director, it means that the Hispanic community that you serve will only continue to grow in the future, and it’s up to you to be prepared to meet the needs of this valuable, diverse population.
Hispanic Funeral Traditions You Need to Know About
1. Religious Ties
A large percentage of Hispanic families have a Catholic religious affiliation, and this influences many aspects of Hispanic culture, including funeral traditions. Many consider death as the moment when the soul returns home, making it a simultaneously joyous and somber occasion for the loved ones left mourning.
The Virgin Mary is a popular representative of religion in Hispanic funerals, though it’s important to note that not all Hispanics are Catholic. Religion in general, however, is a common thread. Prayer and worship are important rituals surrounding death in Hispanic families, and many families choose to adorn their loved one with religious mementos or select a place — often the casket — to erect a sacred shrine of sorts, including images or statues of religious idols.
2. Family Values
Family values play as large a role in traditional Hispanic funeral customs as they do in many people’s lives. Traditionally close-knit groups, Hispanic families tend to remain heavily involved in loved one’s lives, often remaining geographically close as well.
In death, loved ones are still very much a part of the family, and those left mourning maintain the relationship through funeral traditions that focus on physically and emotionally connecting with their loved one. For example, in some Hispanic funerals, the family is present to bathe their loved one and then dress and prepare him or her for the final viewing. The Virgin Mary is strongly represented in these family-oriented traditions too, as mourners will often gather to adorn the casket with statues or prayer cards and rosaries of the blessed mother, along with mementoes of their own jewelry and photographs.
Visiting and viewing hours may last much longer in Hispanic funerals than other cultures, often becoming overnight wakes with many visitors in and out, mourning and expressing emotion openly and without reservation.
3. Celebration of Life
Hispanic funerals are a traditionally social event. Food and drinks are often served at wakes, and it’s not uncommon for games to be played, jokes to be told, and laughs to be shared during this viewing period. The family and friends never leave their loved one alone, but gather in what almost feels like a party in his or her honor.
How to Provide the Most Meaningful Funerals to Hispanic Families
1. Remove the cultural barrier.
Because there is such a large population of immigrant and American-born families who speak Spanish, you may have noticed a growing population of Spanish-speakers in your community already. This is not to say all Hispanic-Americans only speak Spanish, but it is one element that you need to consider to make sure that there isn’t a cultural barrier between you and the Hispanic community.
It’s important to make sure that Hispanic families feel welcome and well-received by your firm. In your messaging to the local public, be sure to be inclusive in your language, culturally sensitive in your imaging, and a friend to all families who seek your services.
2. Offer the family the chance to be involved.
It’s been noted that Hispanic families are often more hands-on during the funeral preparations than people of other cultures. Be sure your clients know that they have the opportunity to stick to that tradition if they choose. Don’t assume that a client will automatically ask for all the culturally meaningful representations of their heritage—immigrants and their descendents especially may not feel welcome to do so if they aren’t a largely represented group in the community. Be sure each family knows that your goal is to help them give their loved one the service he or she deserves and would have desired.
3. Refrain from judgement or offering too many suggestions.
Some traditions of other cultures make us uneasy, simply because they haven’t been normalized to us yet, or because we can’t understand the meaning behind them. Perhaps you couldn’t imagine playing cards at a funeral, or serving food while a viewing occurs. Remember, though, as new as you might be to a certain custom, it is as natural to others as your customs are to you.
Be willing to learn and expand the services you offer when presented with an idea that you hadn’t previously considered. And for funeral directors eager to provide a traditional Hispanic service, be cautious not to assume too much about the family’s desire to have a funeral like you’ve envisioned. They might choose to leave certain customs behind for any number of reasons.
4. Create a value package to accommodate all kinds of families.
Once you’ve been able to get a sense of the Hispanic community members you serve, it may be time to offer a specific package based on your most-requested service inclusions. Could you offer a more customizable funeral package that allows people of various cultures to include their most beloved or significant traditional elements? Or are you in a market where it makes sense to deliver a Hispanic-specific list of options? Whichever route you take, be sure the theme of inclusion and respect is ever-present, so that families of all backgrounds and cultures feel welcome in your funeral home and able to trust you with their loved one’s service.
Also be sure the community knows that your funeral home is the place to go for the traditional funeral they long to give their loved ones. Begin by advertising all your services, including the culture-specific additions and offerings, on your website.
f1Connect allows you to easily share information about your service options so families can find you and learn about the options you provide quickly and easily. To learn more about how to customize your website for the cultures in your community, click here to talk to one of our website success specialists.
Did we miss out on any important Hispanic funeral traditions? Be sure them with us in the comments below!