Humanities scholars mostly focus on the bereavement customs of White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) whereas Catholics, the overwhelming majority of Latinos, are overlooked in their unique funeral customs, which sometimes include overnight wakes and presenting food to the deceased.

Candi K. Cann, Ph.D., a humanities assistant professor at Baylor University took a group of her students in 2015 to a Latino funeral home in a Central Texas city where nearly 30 percent of the total population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, according to U.S. Census statistics.

Hispanics are the country's largest minority, approximately 17 percent of the population, and expected to double to 106 million residents in 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The hallmark of the Latino funeral is the extended wake, which often lasts overnight, Cann said. Mourners bring their children with them, and it is common for families to set up card tables so that they can play dominoes and other games and exchange stories about the deceased loved one. Flowers and candles are placed near the body when the visitation begins.

At the request of the Funeral Service Academy, Cann has prepared training modules about Latino grieving and funeral practices. A discussion of the subject, "Contemporary Death Practices in the Catholic Latina/o Community", is published in Thanatos.

"The wake is not a quiet affair, but often loud and emotional," Cann said. "Generally, from the time the deceased is brought to the funeral home, the person is not left on his or her own." Family members often help with washing, dressing and applying makeup to the deceased after they are embalmed, she said. That is in marked contrast to most modern Anglo practices, in which the body is usually taken from the hospital, or much less frequently, the home, and then prepared by the funeral home, not to be seen again until visitation. In her article, Cann cited a researcher's previous study quoting two Cuban-American women in Florida -- a mother and grandmother -- about spending the entire night at a Cuban mortuary, setting up recliners and drinking espresso.

"It's not like (Anglo) Americans . . . Once the body is there, we would stay with that body until it is buried," one woman said. When mourners were hungry, "we would go in shifts -- like Grandma was going anywhere! But we couldn't leave her alone. Somebody was always there to keep her company."

While families sit and eat in the presence of their loved ones, even within the Latino segment of the United States population, those practices vary. Catered services for Mexican-American funerals are likely to include enchiladas, burritos, tacos, rice and beans; at Columbian visitations, empanadas and plantains are common. In funeral homes that are not equipped to offer catering, food will be shared as offerings to the deceased, with others gathering for meals at the church after services or at the deceased's home after burial, Cann said. Cann says that while the need for ethnic funeral services is growing, many funeral homes are not familiar with other cultures.

Establishment of ethnic funeral homes with bilingual staff is on the rise, and some traditional funeral homes are actively recruiting bilingual staff. Some also are making adjustments so that catered food can be served during wakes.