SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Tuesday October 27, 2015 – It may sound like a grisly Halloween escapade, but when the embalmed body of a Puerto Rican gangster was put on display seated in a bar, it was just the latest episode in a growing trend of “funeral staging” to hit the US island territory.
Soon after his 23rd birthday, Jomar Aguayo Collazo was killed during a drug-related shootout in his San Juan neighbourhood.
Within days of his death, he was back at his mother’s bar, seated comfortably at a table, playing dominoes. Alcohol and a condom were close at hand as usual.
The bar in question had been a deadly crime scene on October 11 when Aguayo Collazo and two friends were gunned down during a bloody shootout.
According to a report in Primera Hora, Aguayo Collazo had a criminal record for controlled substances and was found with a gun when police arrived at the scene.
Four other men were also injured in the carnage.
Faced with a funeral, Aguayo Collazo’s relatives elected to prop up his corpse for viewing during his wake, rather than place him in a traditional coffin, following a gruesome growing fad in Puerto Rico.
Aguayo Collazo cut a dash in a blue and white Adidas tracksuit, white shoes, a cap and a rosary around his neck, and was surrounded by grieving mourners taking photographs.
“He liked to play dominoes and billiards,” Aguayo Collazo’s father, Jose Aguayo Calderon, told Primera Hora in Spanish.
The dead man’s father said they wanted to have the memorial at the bar because Aguayo Collazo had lived in the same building with his mother.
This trend of “funeral staging” has been a popular wake practice in Puerto Rico for several years. Since 2008, several of the more unusual memorials have gained international attention for having cadavers clad in costumes and arranged in lifelike poses.
Recent “stagings” have included a taxi driver at the wheel of his cab, a cyclist mounted on a sports bike, and an action movie fan dressed as superhero The Green Lantern and set against an elaborate green background.
“I think this is a media fuelled morbidity. More than look at a corpse, people want to see it in action, posed or in some place, as if it were alive,” Larissa Vazquez, multimedia editor for El Nuevo Dia, told Fox News Latino.
“It is the reality show of death… It is a spectacle, everything is planned, it seeks to create and manipulate emotions.”