Every year on November 1, a petite woman with a long black ponytail and a brilliantly embroidered blouse follows a trail of mourners from a cemetery in the Guatemalan city of San Juan Comalapa to a mountaintop memorial a few miles away. There, they light candles, place flowers, and eat cookies among the concrete niches for Día de los Muertos, the day of the dead. They’ve been doing this for 16 years, since the first mass graves from Guatemala’s civil war were exhumed at this site.
Carmen Cumes believes her husband, Felipe Povón, is among the skeletons there. Each year, she’s joined by family members of some of the 45,000 desaparecidos, those who vanished at the hands of the military during three decades of conflict. They carry their photos with them.