Said aloud the name sounds like “creo en paz” — “I believe in peace.” Soldiers there are trained to deploy with UN missions in places like Haiti or the Congo, sometimes alongside troops from Canada and the United States.
Yet Hernandez’s presence at the site pointed to its darker past.
They kept digging, and bordering the pits they found other pits, and even more beyond those.
In most it was the same pattern: skeletons wrapped in old clothes, piled atop each other, wrists tied, blindfolds over their eyes. In eight years of fieldwork with the FAFG, Hernandez had been on dozens of digs in lonely cornfields and on military bases looking for missing bodies, but this was the biggest case he had ever seen.
Both went to District 21 soon after the disappearances to look for their relatives.
Both left empty handed; the soldiers on base denied any knowledge of their family members’ whereabouts.
In order for the world to change, people must change.
“Very quietly, with a great deal of fear, people came forward to tell us there had been clandestine cemeteries,” said Aura Elena Farfan, director of Famdegua, an influential victim's organization based in Guatemala City.For the next two decades until his own death in 2014, Snow flew down to Guatemala several times a year, often bringing American forensics experts to give clinics on subjects like ballistics, bone development, or the decay of soft tissues.Still, he emphasized hands-on training over academic degrees: all the anthropologists and archaeologists I met at FAFG had been hired out of school and trained on the job.If the person you were looking for wasn't in the morgue, there was nothing you could do.” The war hadn’t yet ended, but the FAFG moved in to fill the niche.The organization was the brainchild of Clyde Snow, an Oklahoma scientist generally credited with being the father of forensic anthropology — the discipline of telling people’s lives from their bones.But in the years following the Peace Accords of 1996, which was struck between the Guatemalan government and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG), a leftist guerilla movement that became a sanctioned political party under the accords, things began to change.Fear faded and historical clarification commissions backed by the United Nations and Catholic Church began to expose the full scale of the government-sponsored killings.Constant flooding had scrambled the skeletons into a solid mass of bone and clay. “With care.” Since it was founded in 1993, the FAFG has exhumed thousands of victims of wartime massacres and military kidnappings, and helped establish the hard science to ground stories of violence.The exhumations have brought a measure of peace to families around Guatemala, and in recent years been central to trials of cases ranging from the Dos Erres Massacre, in which 200 villagers were murdered by government forces in northern Guatemala, and in the 2014 trial of former military dictator General Efrain Rios Montt.Col spent the rest of the war in fear, certain she would be next.In other houses families refused to speak of their vanished children; others clung to hope.