“If we do not find her at the end of the day she will be lost forever, I’m sorry for her mum.” Says Israel Ticas, the only forensic anthropologist in El Salvador. He is digging into the woods in a remote area controlled by the street gang La Mara Salvatrucha to find Reina Isabella Sanchez, a 20 years old girl who disappeared in 2013. She was the girlfriend of a policeman. Reina will never be located.
In the last 40 years In the area of the so-called “Northern Triangle,” which is home to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, violence has become part of life like the region’s periodic volcanic eruptions. Beyond the average murder rate of a war zone, nowadays, people are not just being killed, but they are actually vanishing.
Street gangs such as La Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and other criminal organizations rule over the population by fear: “Ver, oir y callar” (look, listen and shut up) is a motto you see on the walls all around these countries, where the gangs dictate people’s life. Government’s reaction to the raising of organized crime and violence has been open war, In a sort of utopian idea in which violence should end violence.
In this context, The Northern Triangle has seen for more than a decade a systematic use of forced disappearance by criminal groups and law enforcement, which blurred their role in a battlefield over the control of territory through fear. The only Criminologist in El Salvador, mothers who can’t find their loved ones and hitmen become the chorus of a painful melody revealing a grey area, where resilience, love, and dignity lay.
Federico Vespignani is an Italian photographer born and raised in Venice. He studied visual arts at IED in Rome, Upon graduation, he begun working as freelance photographer for editorial and corporate clients. His Latest works resolve about the relationship between the Individual and his fear, mainly in Central America and Mexico.