“A person does not belong to a place until there is someone dead under the ground…", writes Gabriel García Márquez in One Hundred Years of Solitude, explaining Colombians’ relationship with death. The emotional bond with our beloved does not end with death but rather turns into a holy connection; part of one’s own identity and of a sacred, unique relationship with the territory.
As the result of an endemic, endless violence, profoundly related to the dispute for land ownership, most Colombians have many dead buried in the ground. It is estimated that between 1958 and 2012, there were over 200,000 casualties in Colombia’s armed conflict; over 80 percent were civilians.
Infierno/Paraíso is the product of a three year long photographic journey into Colombian cemeteries to discover the deliberate violence of a country where families are considered lucky when they have a body to cry over. According to Colombia’s National Centre for Historic Memory (Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica, CNMH), 82,998 people were forcibly disappeared in the country between 1958 and 2017, at an average rate of one disappearance every six hours over 59 years. Nine out of ten of these individuals are still missing today. Impunity is the essence of forced disappearance. There is neither a body nor a motive, and therefore, no culprit.
The size and drama of forced disappearance are compounded by the absence of adequate official processes to safeguard and identify the body of the victims. Thus, every time a corpse is improperly identify and sheltered — as happened during decades in many Colombian cemeteries where victims of extrajudicial crimes were buried in mass graves without registration, thus avoiding any chance of being found and those responsible being judged— a second disappearance and victimization is imposed. According to authorities, thousands of unidentified bodies are buried or badly stored in Colombia's cemeteries.
This series was shot between 2007 and 2009.
In 2013, BBC published part of the series.