• The Star Staff

Funeral homes decry shortage of lots, workers at Mayagüez municipal cemeteries

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico Funeral Organization charged Tuesday that municipal cemeteries in Mayagüez do not have lots available for burials or enough workers, a situation that it said hurts poor families and creates a backlog of unburied corpses.

The group’s spokeswoman, Lynette Matos, said several people have complained that they have had to resort to private cemeteries to bury their loved ones or to public cemeteries in other towns because the public cemeteries in Mayagüez do not have available lots.

Moreover, several families have reported that although they have their own cemetery lots, they have been informed that they will not be able to have a burial until a week later because there are no employees working in the cemetery.

“This is prolonging the pain of each Mayagüez family,” said Javier Granell of the Fernández Funeral Home in downtown Mayagüez. “Having to wait a week to bury a loved one is painful.”

Granell said two families using his funeral home are unable to bury their relatives because at the Sábalos cemetery they were notified that “they will not be able to hold burials until Thursday or Friday of next week due to a lack of personnel.”

“This is how our colleagues from other funeral homes find themselves creating a corpse collection,” he said.

It has not been reported why there are no employees available at the cemeteries, Matos said.

Mayagüez has at least seven funeral homes, which together average about 30 funeral services a week. There are also cases of funeral homes in other towns that perform services for families who wish to bury their loved ones in their hometown of Mayagüez.

Matos said the problem of a lack of space is not exclusive to the Sábalos cemetery, but also to Mayagüez’s other two municipal cemeteries, the Old Municipal Cemetery and the cemetery located in the Las Vegas sector.

“Mayagüez has two other cemeteries, but they are private and, given the economic situation faced by Puerto Rican families, they have to opt for municipal cemeteries or cremate their loved ones,” said Matos, who had previously noted that a piece of land behind the State Insurance Fund building had been allocated for expanding the municipal cemetery.

“But then the project did not develop and now there is no space, just like they acquired land near the Las Vegas Cemetery for the construction of lots, another project that has not started either,” she lamented. “Not having employees in times of a pandemic, this seriously affects funeral services and [worsens] the lack of maintenance of cemeteries.”

Matos also recalled that about seven years ago, public hearings were held on the construction of a new cemetery, but it would be private, without benefit to low-income families.

“We funeral parlors opposed it because there are private cemeteries with space,” Matos said. “What is lacking in Mayagüez are public cemeteries with spaces for low-income families who urgently need to bury their friends and family in their hometown. We cannot prolong the pain of each family in this situation.”

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