Bénédicte Desrus

Documentary Photographer + Photojournalist
     
Where the blood goes
Location: Mérida, Mexico
Nationality: French
Biography: Bénédicte Desrus  is a documentary photographer based in Mexico.  She is represented by Sipa Press USA  and has worked throughout Europe, East Africa, the United States and Latin America. She focuses on humanitarian... read on
Public Story
Where the blood goes
Credits: bénédicte desrus
Updated: 02/02/21
Location: Mexico City

WHERE THE BLOOD GOES


Inside the Life of Mexico's Pioneering Forensic Cleaner



Meet Donovan Tavera, Mexico's only government-certified forensic cleaner.


Self-taught, struggling to make ends meet, with a voice made gravelly by tobacco smoke, perennially sporting a suit like the detectives from the noir movies he adores, Tavera is on a mission: to restore dignity and humanity to the dead and their families in a country where only six per cent of all crimes are investigated.


"I come in at the end, after the funeral," he said. "It helps people begin their grieving process." 


But Donovan's career is also microcosm for the Mexico's struggle with impunity, crime, and the rule of law, ten years into a war on organized crime that has left almost 130,000 people dead.


His story communicates the huge loneliness of fighting for decency in a country where victims of crime are treated as scapegoats, meaningless statistics, or fodder for lurid tabloids.


It's a life project that began when he was 12, growing up in the tough neighborhood of Azcapotzalco, Mexico City, after seeing a pedestrian get fatally run over by a car near a taco stand.


"There was blood everywhere. I asked my mother 'Where does all the blood go?" She didn't know. Nobody did. So I decided to find out."


Before even finishing school, he realized there was no formal forensic cleaning training available in the country: so he began to teach himself, poring over books and manuals - not to mention Sherlock Holmes novels - at his local library.


Twenty-five years later, and fifteen years after starting a forensic cleaning company with his family, he has invented almost 400 chemical formulas tailored to all manner of cleanups.  


"Blood is dangerous," says Donovan Tavera, coasting past Mexico City's Angel of Independence late one Sunday night. "People don't know how to clean up murders here. They throw bleach and water on a contaminated surface - which does nothing to kill microbes, tuberculosis, blood-borne diseases."


Text by Tim MacGabhann

256

Also by Bénédicte Desrus —

VISUAL STORY

When I grow up

By Bénédicte Desrus / Mexico — When I Grow up For one year, I photographed my 4-year-old son Thiago, as part of a project titled ..
VISUAL STORY

• Portraits

By Bénédicte Desrus / World
VISUAL STORY

Dandora

By Bénédicte Desrus / Nairobi, Kenya — DANDORA   Located near slums in the east of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, the Dandora dumpsite is one of..
VISUAL STORY

Madiaba Busaa Club

By Bénédicte Desrus / Nairobi, Kenya — MADIABA BUSAA CLUB   Busaa , a local Kenyan beer, is sold at hundreds of tiny bars throughout slums in..
VISUAL STORY

The Women of Casa Xochiquetzal

By Bénédicte Desrus / Mexico City — THE WOMEN OF CASA XOCHIQUETZAL Have you ever thought about what happens to sex workers when they get old?..
VISUAL STORY

Dreaming big

By Bénédicte Desrus / Mexico City — DREAMING BIG In Mexico, the first and only women’s national ice hockey team, the Selección..
VISUAL STORY

Keep Moving

By Bénédicte Desrus / Mexico City — KEEP MOVING Meet Baruch, who, at eighteen, is one of Mexico's best young footballers. Two years ago,..
VISUAL STORY

Globesity

By Bénédicte Desrus / World — • GLOBESITY Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally. The number of overweight and obese..
VISUAL STORY

The persecution of homosexuals in Uganda

By Bénédicte Desrus / Kampala, Uganda — THE PERSECUTION OF HOMOSEXUALS  IN  UGANDA Uganda has criminalized homosexuality for over a..
VISUAL STORY

The devastation caused by injecting foreign substances for cosmetic purposes into the body in Mexico.

By Bénédicte Desrus / Mexico City — HUMAN ADJUVANT DISEASE The devastation caused by injecting foreign substances for cosmetic purposes into..
Join us
for more access