There were more than 124,000 incinerations in the nearly 200 existing crematoria in Spain past year

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The trend is clear and unstoppable: in 2012 there were more than 124,000 incinerations in the almost 200 crematoriums in Spain. In some cities the percentage is reaching 70%, as in Seville and Jaén; in others, such as Zaragoza, it exceeds 60% of the deceased. Also in Valencia and Malaga cremations outnumber inhumations. To set the scene, in 2007 the Spanish average was less than  23%.

What customs are the most common – or extravagant – when keeping or spreading the ashes? And what are the causes for this meteoric growth? We will reveal some of these keys with the help of a Spanish pioneer in the sector, YATRI.

What do we do with the ashes of our dead Spaniards?

The most common activity is to spread them at sea or in places with an emotional sense to the deceased person; It is also quite common to keep them at home, in a special container (mini urns); or even to transform them into diamonds, after a process of crystallization. But beyond the ordinary, the likes of Spaniards are increasingly varied and surprising, even extravagant. And the companies specialized in serving these last wills, for very complicated as they may appear, are also many. One of the pioneer companies in the professionalization and innovation of this service is YATRI, some of whose experiences we explain below:

* Biodegradable urns that they scatter or bury with a seed or seedling, and that, over the years, it just grows a tree, symbol of life and union with nature.

* Depositing the ashes of the deceased in the crater of a volcano, so that at the time of the eruption ashes are mixed with the ashes of the volcano and both spread united forever.

* Burying the ashes of their grandparents in the hidden place that was their refuge during the war and that they always wanted to be their last refuge.

* Spreading them from a helicopter in the middle of the Alps, the place where the deceased and his wife fell in love years ago.

* Burying the ashes in an environment friendly urn with a sapling of “Yew”, ancient tree and whose crust is component of medication used to fight cancer (cause of death).

* Scatter them in the exact spot where his father died drowned, in a sinking boat on his was traveling.

* Keep them in an urn of salt and natural fibers and deposited in the bottom of the sea; and that attendees to the ceremony could see it from inside the water, diving.

* Buried in a natural park who was the subject of their studies and climate research in life.

* A trend on the rise among Spaniards: honor the memory of their pets. As, for example, to take a helicopter ride with the ashes of their beloved chihuahua by those places where they used to taking a walk, then to throw them into the sea.

In short, for all tastes, economies and demands. But whatever the last will of the deceased or the desire of their relatives is, “it is very important that the act is always performed with professionalism, within the law and with the utmost respect to the environment”, says Juan Antonio González Angulo, Director General of YATRI. To spread the remains indiscriminately – in streams, parks, protected places, proximity to the coast… – in addition to being illegal may be unhealthy and even pollution. It should, therefore, count on the services of a specialized company.

An Indian diplomat is cremated on a pyre of firewood.

This headline would no longer have place today, but there were no crematoria just a few decades in Spain. The first one that was installed in our country was in Madrid’s Almudena cemetery, in 1973. The reason for this novelty: “Just in case there were any foreign demands”. A few years earlier, funeral services for the cremation of a hindu diplomat had to be carried out in a pyre of firewood diplomat, in the absence of crematoria. And it is not until 1964 that the Catholic Church authorized the cremation of corpses, during the papacy of Pablo VI, in which it ruled that such practice was not opposed to any dogma of faith.

During the following decades the number of cremations performed in Spain has been growing gradually, especially in urban areas, but always far behind the burial. In 1992, for example, there were 20% of incinerations in Madrid, in Seville 18% and in Bilbao 28%. Today cremation is beginning to match and to even exceed the traditional burial (in urban areas) albeit far from other countries figures, like Japan (97%), and very similar to Great Britain (70%) and Denmark (68%).


Causes and benefits, beyond the crisis.

Why is this tremendous? Is it the crisis the only reason? Was there a cultural change? Greater ecological awareness? or is it simply matter of space? The reason is a little bit of everything. Let’s go by parts:

(1) Crisis: cremation is a practice notoriously cheaper than traditional burial (apart coffin, we must include payment of land, the lease of the grave, the tombstone, the care and maintenance of the Tomb…). An expenditure that many families can no longer or do not want to take.

(2) Cultural change: Today cremation is a much more socially accepted option that a few years ago. The rigidity of the Customs has also relaxed in this respect, thanks to the influence of other cultures. Even it is seen with better eyes when making a posthumous homage, more emotional and with the assurance to have fulfilled the last wish of the honouree.

(3) Ecology: If done correctly, cremation does not pollute waters or land, and only releases to the atmosphere – carbonic anhydride and water vapor. It is also energy-efficient, by heat recovering. And it has no risk of possible focus of infection (human remains or coffin).

(4) Lack of space: This is a growing problem in large cities, also for cemeteries. Not even the reuse of niches is sufficient. Cremation, simply does not need soil. It is therefore a solution for the future.

In addition, is a process much more practical, simple and fast than a traditional burial, since it avoids legal procedures, complications and subsequent payments once done the cremation. An option that greatly facilitates things to the relatives of the deceased. An unstoppable trend that is dramatically transforming the funeral customs of the Spaniards.

Source: Published 4 December, 2013 by