Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The funeral

Today is Robert’s funeral.

Like the tradition in Salasaca, after the death of a person there are 3 days of celebration during which people bring food and drinks.
Robert did not want a big celebration, he wanted people to come for him not for the food nor for the drinks; therefore in the past days no food and drinks have been shared among the visitors and his funeral is going to be today (the 2nd day after his death).

Since Sunday late afternoon the room down stairs on the left side of the dorm has been turned into Robert’s death chamber.
His grave is surrounded by flowers, candles, pictures and there is also the light blue flag of the soccer team of Salasaca.


People come to visit him during the days and nights.

Despite the fact that Robert did not want a big ceremony, he was still one part of the community here (a very strong pillar and a very much beloved man). Therefore his funeral is in any case traditional.

At midday the service starts.

From the death chamber the grave is carried by two very good friends of Robert (Angel and Arne) and two football players of the Salasaca team. With a lengthy procession people follow them to the Christian church in the center of the town.

At the head of the procession there is Mariano’s red camionetta with amplifiers that put the same song over and over again (Sound of silence, in its original version of Simon & Garfunkel, in a Spanish religious version and without text. In between a voice is talking about Robert, how he arrived here in 2004 and how he helped the community during those 12 years).



The procession is slow and long.
The sun is burning and the more we all walk, the more people from the streets come to join us to say the last goodbye to Robert.

At 1:30 PM we all arrive to the Church in the center where more people are already waiting for the mess to be celebrated.


The mess is very emotional. Again the whole community reminds and thanks Robert’s work during all those years. The locals consider him as a father, because Robert was very much involved in the education of the Salasaca's kids and he encouraged them to never forget and always respect and love their roots.

After the mess the procession continues to the Escuela KATITAWA.
Robert wanted to be buried there but unfortunately this is not possible. His grave will be buried in the cemetery but we all want him to have a last look at his school, his project and the thing for which he spent so many years, energy and money; the thing he lived for since the last 12 years.

At 4:30 PM we all arrive at there. The grave is placed on the Andean cross watching the Chimborazo.
The view is spectacular, the sky is clean as to let Robert see his place for the very last time.
From the terrace on the 1st floor Rufino begins his speech, in Quechua and in Spanish. Afterwards the kids gather around the grave and starts singing a common song from their school time. 
For the locals it is very important not to be sad at a funeral, because this is when the soul is leaving the body and it does not have to be sad. All is so touching.


After the school the procession continues for the last section, to the cemetery.
At the cemetery there is already a hole for Robert’s grave and on its sides a lot of soil is left to cover it again. All the people that have been walking with him since 12:00 PM are now around that hole.
The grave is gently let down into the hole. Then we all throw flowers into it and slowly the closest friends start to re-cover the grave.

At the visual seeing of the soil covering the grave of their beloved teacher, the youngest kids start to cry one by one. From mild sobs they became loud laments.
It is now difficult to maintain the joyful atmosphere that was before.
Some adults also start to cry: the daughters, some volunteers, some locals, some friends…

Goodbye Robert! AdiĆ³s Robert! Tupananchikkama Robert!

This is how we want to remember you


For the local newspaper

1 comment:

  1. I knew Robert for a short time as a volunteer at the school, but he made a big impact on me. It always made me glad to think that there are people like Robert in the world. And places like Salasaca. Thank you for documenting the funeral.

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