Ambassador Thompson to the Secretary of State .
Mexico , August 20, 1906 .
Sir: I am in receipt of instruction No. 90, of the 7th, which reached this embassy on the 16th instant, transmitting a copy of a letter from Mr. H. M. Maus, in which, on behalf of the National Funeral Directors’ Association of the United States, he complains of the great expense and loss of time caused in Mexico, under Mexican laws, in the removal to the United States of bodies of American citizens who die in Mexico, and requesting the Department of State to use its good offices to secure a uniform Mexican regulation under which the removal of a dead body from Mexico to the United States will be as easy as from one State to another in our Union; while the department directs me to report as to the export tax on bodies, the local transit charges alleged to be levied in places through which the body pasess, the high charge for embalming, and the railway tariffs.
In response I have to report that I fear we would encounter practically insurmountable obstacles in any endeavor to secure a uniform Mexican regulation under which, as suggested by Mr. Maus, the removal of a dead body to the United States will be as easy as from one State to another in our Union, for the reason that the laws governing the burial, exhumation, and removal of bodies are made by the legislature of the several States of the Mexican Union, and be [Page 1115] cause the laws of every State in regard thereto differ very materially from one another. So, to bring about the adoption of the uniform regulation referred to by Mr. Maus, an appeal would have to be presented to the legislature of each Mexican State, praying for a change in its present laws and regulations, which, I have been informed, are based upon and made to suit sectional and climate conditions, in some of which States the various forms of fever exist and where the application of sanitary laws must naturally differ from some others of the Mexican States.
So far as the export or exhumation tax on bodies is concerned, I have been informed that this costs from $150 to $300, Mexican currency, according to the Stale from which it is desired to remove a body; and this tax may be imposed by any of the state governments, which, under its laws, is at liberty either to suspend or impose the same, as may suit the pleasure of the governor of any of those States. I have also been informed that there is no local transit charge in places through which a body may pass en route from Mexico to the United States.
As to the high charges for embalming, which range from $500 to $1,000, Mexican currency, nothing can be said, since they are made by private physicians, who are not under government regulation and who are therefore at liberty to charge whatever sum may be customary. For the transportation of a dead body, Mexican railways charge two first-class fares, one of which is for the person who under the law, is required to accompany the body in transit, all of which are matters over which the Mexican Government can exercise no control.
I have, etc.,