SAN ANTONIO – As the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly appears to be under control in the United States, the government of Peru announced a nationwide quarantine on March 17 that will last through Holy Week. In the middle of the public health crisis in Peru, the family of a U.S. Army veteran from San Antonio is working to bring his remains back to the states.
“On March 17, 2021, the Government of Peru announced nationwide quarantine restrictions for Semana Santa (Holy Week) from April 1 – April 4, 2021,” the U.S. Embassy in Peru said.
Jesus Urbina Herrera, 57, had been residing in Lima, Peru, since 2008. Herrera was in Lima in an effort to connect with his son and bring him home to San Antonio.
“His family was taken away from him, and he remained in Peru trying to get his son back and bring him back home to the United States,” said Robert Rodriguez, Herrera’s nephew.
Rodriguez said his uncle was a father figure and a person whom he truly loved.
“My uncle was a very good man. He was an optimist, a very intelligent man who was a father figure to me when I was growing up,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said his uncle had called the family to let them know he wasn’t feeling well and feared he had contracted COVID-19.
“He called us on March 14 on a Sunday and told us that he wasn’t feeling well and that he was worried that it could have been COVID. By that Wednesday, he went to get tested, and he also got a chest X-ray done,” Rodriguez said.
Herrera tested positive for COVID-19 on March 20. Rodriguez said his family tried everything they could to get Herrera the medical attention he desperately needed.
“What made it even a bit more difficult to understand was, in my mind, I thought, OK, he’s an American citizen, he’s a veteran. For sure, I could get him some help,” Rodriguez said.
Herrera’s family had no luck in getting him admitted to a hospital in Peru. Rodriguez said the pandemic has saturated medical care facilities in the city of Lima.
“We tried our best Saturday to find a hospital in Lima, Peru, that could help him, and every hospital told us that they didn’t have an ambulance available. They didn’t even have room,” Rodriguez said.
Herrera died the next day on March 21. His family has since been attempting to communicate with the U.S. Embassy in Peru to assist in having his body sent home.
Rodriguez said the embassy recommended a funeral home and told them they could only assist in issuing a death certificate and the necessary documents they would need to have the body shipped to the U.S.
“It’s not just dealing with two funeral homes and the embassy in Lima, Peru. It’s also constructing a funeral home here to pick up his ashes from the airport,” said Patricia Reyes, Herrera’s sister
Reyes said it has been an overwhelming process in getting her brother home and laying him to rest. Since his death, Herrera has had to be transferred to two funeral homes in Lima, increasing their indebted amount.
The family is now in need of $15,000 to bring Herrera to San Antonio. They said they are also required to hire a local funeral home to receive Herrera’s ashes since his remains are considered cargo. The family has since established a GoFundMe.
“Once they have his ashes, we can go ahead and pick those up, and he can rest eternally in Fort Sam as he deserves to be,” Reyes said.