by Tiffiny Ruegner | September 16, 2014 11:16 pm
Armed only with a sledgehammer and mask to cover his mouth and nose, a Guatemalan grave-cleaner begins the wretched task of smashing open a crypt and removing whatever rank remains lurk inside.
The men are removing the dead whose families can no longer afford the luxury of a private crypt and as soon as a lease on a grave expires, the cleaners will come and free up the space for a new paying customer. Any remains that are not claimed will be stuffed into plastic bags, labelled and sent to a mass grave to be reburied.
Most of the corpses excavated are largely decomposed, but those that were laid to rest in the upper crypts, where conditions are hot and dry, become mummified. As the team of grave-cleaners go to work in Guatemala City, their manner hardly appears different to labourers on a building site or workers at a recycling centre.
Bags of broken corpses are tossed into heaps like piles of garbage and transported on forklift trucks with the clothes they were buried in still on their backs. Once the corpses have been removed, many of the coffins will be discarded, and end up on a heap of rubbish and broken wood near the graveyard.
Jorge Dan Lopez, who took these photos, said: ‘The landscape was macabre, but constantly interesting. Vultures would circle the graves from above, beadily watching every move of those who came into contact with the dead.
‘I got a distinctive view of skin, bones, and an almost-preserved face, grimacing indescribably. Everything, from the bottom of the crypts to the remains of human hair, had a pungent, dry odour.’
What a gross mistreatment of the dead.
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