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BRIEF HISTORY OF AN PILOT WHO BECOME EMBALMER

It was the year 1979 and I was in the 10th. High school degree in the town of Ceiba. For one of the greatest ironies of my life I, who had terror to the dead, at the same time felt an over-natural attraction for everything related to funeral homes.Since I was a little boy I used to make funerals with the carts and I always liked to see the deceased at the wakeside even though I could not sleep at night.

I can not say that this interest came in my family, although my grandfather Nemesio was brother of Aurora Montes, wife of Cruz Andino, who in turn had funeral home De Diego Funeral Home in Santurce and his son Cruz Andino Jr. “Chan “Was embalming and worked many years in Ehret. By that time I was very small and I could not enjoy the benefit of being able to work for “Crucito” which was well liked by the other funeral directors of his time. Crucito died from complications of surgery and Aurora decided to sell the funeral home. That’s when my “familiar” relationship with the mortuary business came.

At the age of 15 I decided to visit the funeral home where Mr. Eusebio Carrasco headed his company Ceiba Funeral Home to inquire about the top mortician schools of embalmers in PR. Those who were there informed me that the embalmer was the only one who could give me details about it. In the year 1978 the last course of Mortuary Sciences offered in the vocational school Miguel Such by Mr. Ramón V. Vázquez had reached its end. From that course the embalmer of Mr. Carrasco had graduated and, as usual, after graduating embalmers did not want the others to learn so that “they did not take the work”. This guy was not much help. From the beginning he tried to discourage me and when he saw that his attempts were unsuccessful he practically voted me out of the embalming room on a hot July afternoon. You’ll never forget me. I went crying like a pendejo on the way home, which was quite far, and on the way I made a promise to myself:

“Nothing and nobody will keep me from being embalmer. I will be one of the best and I will reach rungs never achieved by any Puerto Rican embalmer. ”

Almost at the same time as the vote, I informed Mr. Carrasco about the incident and arranged a shift at his Humacao branch, Carrasco Memorial, to cover the weekends. Luis Rios was the embalmer there, and unlike the “other”, he allowed me to help him during the embalming and the questions he asked me were answered without fear. Unfortunately for reasons of Social Security and my early age of 15 years I could not work anymore and then I kept making funerals from time to time.

Upon reaching 4th year of high school I became the President of the Class 1981-1982 of Ceiba. I graduated with an average of 3.93 and as I had predicted, I went to study Mortuary Science in Mayaguez. Naturally the embalmers of the east area did not mention the course of Mayaguez and kept it with much secrecy. In fact, the course of Mayaguez years ago was offered at the same time as that of Rio Piedras but Vázquez was of better quality than that of the Sultana del Oeste. The thing is that before going to school I was asked for a letter securing the practice center. Using my connections with Chan we look for a practice center in the metro area. We tried first with La Cruz but Miguelito Guzman could not give me the chance and told Chan that he should try Ehret better. At that time Ehret had a revolú with the union but a certain Mr. González allowed me the conditioned practice to certain things. You know that in Ehret, as always, they tend to be more strict for this kind of thing than the rest of the funeral homes to give that air of exclusivity and respect that they have always been proud of. The guy asked me for a transcript of high school credits, I guess he would think he was an average student and so he wanted to see my grades. He also told me that once I finished the course I would demand a reasonable minimum average to be able to embalm the 40 cases demanded “the Board” for that time. He got a big surprise when I gave him my grades with an average of 3.93. The best came later … He said: “You will need an average of no less than 3.00 points in the Mortuary Science course to practice here.” I replied very firmly and firmly: “No, you will ask in that letter a minimum average of 3.50 to practice here.” Well, the gentleman did not hesitate any more and gave me the letter for the Mayaguez course.

When my family heard of my decision no one agreed. My mom, like all the other moms in the world, wanted me to be a doctor. My mother-in-law stopped me from wanting because I was going to be a “open dead” and even my girlfriend went to run. What I really wanted was to study a baccalaureate of Mortuary Sciences at the prestigious University of Minnesotta but my family lacked the resources to send me to the cold northern state. So I had to line my cannons elsewhere and settle for much less.

 

In May 2011 I was 27 years old. I became the first Puerto Rican to belong to the prestigious British organization of the British Institute of Embalmers in December of 2002. In January of 2003 I obtained the designation of Certified Funeral Service Practitioner, also the first Puerto Rican to achieve it. I have licenses in California and England and have just completed the third book of advanced techniques for embalmers in Spanish.

At the moment I live with my wife Carolyn and my children Carlitos and William in a beautiful place of Luquillo. Carlitos already became a delinquent with a perfect average of 4.00 in the Lyceum of Art and Technology and is currently studying Architecture at the University of PR. William graduates with honors from the 12th. Degree and will follow the steps in the business of music and computers. Both attended with me to various embalming and were able to appreciate with their own eyes the working conditions of the Puerto Rican embalmers. Immediately they noticed the little pay and high risks that we have to run during the preparation of a deceased and that was enough to make them lose their desire to study the same as their father. I personally continue to study and investigate the Mortuary Sciences. The subject of the history of embalming and the origins of the manufacture of embalming chemicals are my specialty and hobby. Like Chelo López, I own a collection of old books from our profession quite complete and from time to time we gather to exchange information, smoke a couple of cigars and drink several glasses of wine in the style of “talk.” This is one of the best ways to learn while enjoying life and sharing with colleagues.

In these days mortuary education in PR has greatly deteriorated. The standards of private schools to choose their teachers and their students are deplorable. Anyone who is needed can appear there to teach embalming classes and groups that start with 20 end up with 5 if they are lucky. Some of the teachers work hard and with what they have they do wonders but those are the least. With the increase of cremation and the alarming decline in the quality of jobs, one of the oldest professions in the world is being swept away and there will be no turning back. I think that for 10 years embalming will be as rare as cremation was 15 years ago in PR. It will only exist in history books. Until then, we will continue to contribute here to the professional improvement of our class.

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