Shadow of a man hammering into marked graves of infants in the largest public cemetery in Guatemala. (Saul Martinez)

A man removes a casket to place in a mass grave. (Saul Martinez)

Every year the same dismal, depressing scene repeats itself in the largest public cemetery in Guatemala City. Cemetery workers gather to exhume the bodies of some 4,000 children and deposit their remains in a mass grave that borders the city’s main garbage dump. The exhumations are the effect of a grim economic reality. Parents who laid their children to rest in the cemetery six years prior must come up with 180 Quetzales (U.S. $24) to renew their child’s burial plot. Most families are simply unable to come up with the funds, and so the annual ritual persists. In his series, “Forgotten Children,” photographer Saul Martinez takes us along to bear witness to this sad reality.


The remaining contents of Maria Elena Ovando’s grave. (Saul Martinez)

A worker empties the contents of child graves into a wheelbarrow. (Saul Martinez)

A worker holds up the dress of a little girl found in one of the exhumed graves. (Saul Martinez)

Juana Lopez sells candy on the passageways of the mausoleums of the cemetery. (Saul Martinez)

A cemetery worker walks through the mausoleums. (Saul Martinez)

A toy that once belonged to an infant. (Saul Martinez)

Anibal Socer, who died at 6 months in 1983, son of MarÌa Gomez, is exhumed and will be moved to a different cemetery closer to where his mother lives in Mixco on the outskirts of Guatemala City. (Saul Martinez)

A toy that once belonged to an infant rests against a wall in the cemetery. (Saul Martinez)

Empty graves of infants. (Saul Martinez)

MarÌa Gomez and her granddaughter react as she observes the exhumation of her son. (Saul Martinez)

A cemetery worker erases with sand paper a name on a tombstone. (Saul Martinez)

MarÌa Gomez and her family with the remains of her son. (Saul Martinez)

A bird flies over the largest public cemetery in Guatemala. (Saul Martinez)