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Until Death Us Do Part - On Dying In Puerto Escondido

Compiled by:
Sheila Lorimore Clarke
Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
August 2013
September 2013
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Pre-Death Planning | Post-Death Requirements | Post Death


Pre-Death Planning | Post-Death Requirements | Post Death


  1. If you are being treated by a local physician, your family member or your legal representative* should notify that doctor immediately, and he/she will sign a death certificate (certificado de difunción) stating the cause of death. If you suffer a fatal accident, or if there are any suspicious circumstances, by law an autopsy must be performed. In any case, a doctor must be called immediately. Plan ahead. With your papers keep the name and telephone number of a doctor you respect or about whom you've heard good things. Once the doctor has issued the death certificate, the next step is to register the death certificate with the office of “Registro Civil” on the bottom floor of the Agencia Municipal (City Hall). Within approximately half an hour, the people at the Registro Civil will issue a “ticket”, permission to bury the deceased or proceed with the trip to the crematorium. “Ticket” in hand, a family member or legal representative can go to the person in charge of cemeteries (el regidor de panteónes) to pay for a plot if your wish is to be buried, not cremated or returned to you country of origin.

    Should there be an autopsy, there is no charge for the autopsy. By the way, poetic notions of nourishing the fish off shore should be banished. The boat owner and anyone else involved in tossing you into the brink could be charged with murder if the fishy farewell is discovered.

  2. A family member or legal representative* must notify the deceased’s embassy as soon as possible. (U.S. Embassy: 01 555 080 2000. Press 0 and ask for extension 4543*** or 4131***; Canadian Embassy 01 555 724 7900) This is for the deceased's protection, both legal (so that a death certificate from the deceased's country of origin can be issued) and also to ascertain if there has been foul play. Keep the telephone number of your government representative, a copy of your passport, a statement of your final wishes and the names and phone numbers of your next of kin in a previously agreed upon place.

  3. FOREIGNERS HOLDING DUAL CITZENSHIP: The deceased's Mexican passport and voter registration card are sufficient for all death certificates and other legal requirements. In many, if not most, cases, however, a foreigner with dual citizenship will still need to have a death certificate from his/her country (available from his/her embassy) in order to settle estates, insurance policies, and banking issues in his/her country of origin.

    * WHO CAN BE YOUR LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE? If you do not have a family member who can follow your wishes or act on your behalf, you may choose a legal representative in Mexico. That entails both you and your representative going to a Mexican notary to enact a notarized power of attorney (the P.O.A. you buy at the office supply store doesn't count) which will state that your legal representative has permission to attend to all aspects of your death: choosing a mortuary, a coffin, a cemetery or deciding to send your remains to your home country. THE NOTARIZED DOCUMENT MUST BE PRESENTED TO THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY (MINISTERIO PÚBLICO) AT THE AGENCIA MUNICIPAL (CITY HALL), CORNER OF THE COASTAL HIGHWAY AND 3A PONIENTE.


Pre-Death Planning | Post-Death Requirements | Post Death


  1. FUNERAL HOME OPTIONS: Get a written, itemized estimate (presupuesto/cotización)

  2. CEMETERY OPTIONS: Puerto Escondido, Colotepec or Chila Cemetery. There is no more room at the Panteón Municipal in Puerto Escondido. The new president of San Pedro Mixtepec, Antonio Aragón, says locating a new cemetery site is a priority for him. The cemetery in Lomas de Puerto, administered by Santa María Colotepec, is quite new, so there's a good deal of space available. Colotepec also has a municipal cemetery not far off the Coastal Highway on the road that leads to the town of Colotepec. It's rumored that they are considering an additional site closer to the center of the town of Colotepec. If you wish to be buried here on the coast, it would be a good idea to take a field trip to the cemeteries in order to help you make your decision.

  3. BURIAL IN ONES COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: The deceased will be embalmed, placed in a sealed coffin, transported to Mexico City via Oaxaca and sent from the Mexico City International Airport to its final destination. The funeral directors, working with your embassy or your consulor agency in Oaxaca, will do all the paperwork for the tranportation of the remains by air freight. If this is the choice of the deceased and/or of his next of kin, one must provide the funeral director with a copy of the deceased’s passport and the name, address and phone number of the funeral home which will receive the coffin, as well as the name, address and phone number of the family member or representative who will be financially responsible. The funeral home in a foreign country will need to pick up the coffin from the airport or make arrangements for the coffin to be delivered to them. The owner of Funerales Díaz does not wish to disclose his fee at this time. Funerales Alcalá charges $18,000 for this service which includes a special metal coffin, a special boxed wrapping for international shipment, three day round trip to the Mexico City airport including a stopover at the deceased's embassy for paperwork necessary to ship remains. Air freight fares, which will vary, are not included.

  4. CREMATION: Cremation is permitted under Mexican law. When there are no relatives or when the next-of-kin cannot be present to request cremation, the next-of-kin or the deceased's legal representative can provide a power of attorney authorizing the funeral home to take care of the necessary paperwork.

    If the death occurred as a consequence of a crime, an accident or under suspicious circumstances, the district attorney (Ministerio Público) must authorize the disposition of remains. It is common that the district attorney won't authorize cremation in homicide cases. A deceased person must be buried, be en route to the crematorium or on its way to the Mexico City Airport within 24 hours. If not, embalming (embasamado) is required by Mexican law.

    There is currently no crematorium on the Oaxacan coast, but both Funerales Alcalá and Funerales Díaz are equipped to handle arrangements for cremation. Both have future plans to build a crematorium on the coast when there is sufficient demand. The deceased must be transported by hearse to Oaxaca. The ashes may be recovered in Oaxaca by a family member or his/her representative may be flown to Puerto Escondido. Cremated remains may NOT be sent by DHL, Estafeta, or any other mail service.

    The cost for cremation service through Funerales Díaz can cost as much as $38,000. At Funerales Alcalá, the current fee is $10,650. Costs can be minimized by providing in advance an urn or appropriate receptacle for the ashes. The cost of the actual cremation at the crematorium in Oaxaca is $7650 without paperwork or urn. It's legal to fly internationally on many airlines with the deceased's cremated remains. Be prepared to arrive at the airport two hours ahead of flight time with the deceased's death certificate, the papers from the crematorium as well as a copy of his/her passport. AeroMar from Puerto Escondido and Aeroméxico both permit a passenger to carry “ashes” as long as he/she has proper papers. Check ahead with other airlines.

  5. TOMBSTONES, MONUMENTS, CROSSES, STARS OF DAVID, PLAQUES: There are two marmolerías (businesses that make all kinds of grave markers) in Puerto. Marmolería González is on 1a Norte between 2a and 3a Oriente. The simplest marker is $500. Something large and elegant: $13,000. The other is Marmolería Juan José on 9a Norte between Av. Oaxaca and 3a Poniente. Their prices range between $950 and $15,000.

  6. ORGAN DONATION: At the time of this report there are no provisions for harvesting organs for donation in Puerto Escondido.

Pre-Death Planning | Post-Death Requirements | Post Death

Information in this report comes from the following sources. Prices are valid only as of August 2013. Remember: It’s advisable to get a binding estimate in writing from the funeral home before contracting for its service.

  1. Armando Carreño, owner of Funerales Díaz
  2. Juan Carlos Alcalá, owner of Funerales Alcalá
  3. Lourdes García, Citizens’ Counselor, U.S. Embassy, Mexico City
  4. U.S. Embassy in Mexico Website (Go to U.S. Citizen Services, then to Emergencies, the Death of a Citizen)
  5. Marmolerías González and Juan José
  6. Cremation Association of North America
  7. AeroMar Airlines
  8. Aeromexico Airlines
  9. DHL and Estafeta (express mail services)
  10. Iván López Ríos, carpenter
  11. Barbara Schaffer
  12. Lic. Alina Félix Clímaco
  13. Tamora Nobilski, U.S. consular agent in Oaxaca

Please email your own experiences, updates, corrections to tom@tomzap.com.

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