Accords for a “firm and lasting peace” were signed in Guatemala in 1996, officially ending 36 years of civil war between leftist guerrillas and military dictatorships that left more than 200,000 civilians dead or disappeared. According to the Historical Clarification Committee (CEH), in the 1980s the Guatemalan Army identified groups of the Mayan population as the internal enemy, considering them to be an actual or potential support base for the guerrillas. The Army perpetrated 626 massacres in Mayan communities, which often resulted in the complete extermination of these communities.
During the last decade and a half, as fears of retaliation quell, family members seek to exhume the remains of their loved ones that lie in unmarked, common graves, and rebury them according to ancestral traditions. This provides the wandering soul with a resting place, and the family members with a grave to honor on the Day of the Dead.
Forensic expert testimony resulting from exhumations have proved essential to criminal proceedings in national courts seeking justice for the extrajudicial killings, massacres, disappearances, and genocide.