A brief history of the Lloronas or Plañideras of Vieques
During the 19th century, if someone died on Vieques, and family members did not think that there would be a high turnout for the funeral, an age-old custom was employed. Island resident Will Colon remembers as a child hearing the elders talk about “mourners for hire.” A paid mourner would attend the funeral and fill an empty seat, and moments of silence, by crying loudly. This demonstrated how loved and popular the deceased was to friends and family. Professional plañideras (Spanish for criers), sometimes referred to as lloronas and lloronos (female and male) on Vieques, would walk with the funeral procession to the grave site wailing loudly.
The trend, dating back to the sixth century B.C., has been practiced all over the world, and the services provided have varied over time. Hired mourners, depending on the request, weep, wail, or even faint from emotion at the funeral of the stranger. Payment is based on performance. Today, the tradition is still popular in parts of the world. In the United Kingdom, Rentamourner.com offers to “supply professional, discreet people to attend funerals and wakes. If you simply need to increase visitor numbers or introduce new faces, we can help.”