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The Missing Funeral Bier

Funeral Bier in Pulpa Peru

I often frequent cemeteries when traveling to other countries and ask questions about how the rites are performed, while comparing those to my home here in Canada. There is always something important which we can learn from other cultures. On a recent trip to Latin America I visited a cemetery just outside of Nazca, Peru, in a small town named Pulpa.

Pulpa is very impoverished and I was curious to understand the pricing and ways people compensate for the expensive burial rites in a 3rd world country. I was staying at a local families’ home. The son offered to take me to the cemetery and talk about the customs and funeral rites. They had a family member buried there.

At the main gate of the cemetery was a gazebo with a built in casket bier (as pictured above) and some steps used for seating. A bier is a raised platform which is used to set a casket on during a funeral service. Some funeral homes still have them in their showroom today to display caskets, but they stopped being used for services around the 1970’s and are now replaced by a church truck, a metal folding casket holder which can be used for transport at other locations.

The interesting thing about the cemetery in Pulpa is that the majority of services are held here under the gazebo with the casket bier. The use of the gazebo and built in bier is included in the purchase price of the grave. The entire service is held at the cemetery, including eulogy and funeral rites. The service is not just a quick ten-minute graveside, which is customary here in North America. It provides a sacred permanent space for funeral services.

The use of the gazebo and bier is booked for the location on a first come first serve basis. It is unmarked with any religious symbols, so it is appropriate for all denominations within the area.

So why am I so obsessed with the bier in Pulpa? I want the people I serve to have this option. I believe a city cemetery should provide a space where the funeral service can be held within the community at no extra cost to the family. Many families struggle and sacrifice their traditions due to costs. This gives people another option by reducing the cost of the use of It facilities charged by the funeral home.

It can be argued that the weather here in Canada is treacherous for at least 5 months of the year and the bier wouldn’t be able to be used during those months, however, during the other 7 months it could be used as a viable option for traditional funeral services for low income families. Our tax dollars help to fund the municipal cemeteries. I believe this should be a free outdoor facility for families who can’t afford a traditional funeral service. Due to the bare bones funding, from the Canada Pension Plan death benefit of $2500.

I believe all cemeteries in North America should offer the option of some type of covered facility and bier. There should also be a covered bier outside of every crematorium for the same purpose. It would be inexpensive to construct and would offer immense value to families who might choose to use it. It's important that people are able to perform much needed rites regardless of their financial status, in order for closure.

In 2 weeks we will further explore low cost funeral options based on Latin American culture.

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