Israel Ticas is a forensic archaeologist, and one of the few lines of defense against El Salvador’s atrociously high rate of lethal violence crimes.
Ticas says that as the country’s forensic archaeologist, he has solved more than 500 homicide and missing persons cases.
In his office, he works with his assistant, trying to piece together the cases he has worked on, and keeps in touch with the families of victims that have been either assassinated or have disappeared.
“I have all I need,” he says.
Masks, caps, metric tapes, machetes, big and small brushes, cleaning instruments and lamps line the walls.
Ticas’s second office is wherever a crime took place or a body has been found. There, he wears a special blue and white suit that protects him from polluting the bodies and is suitable for digging up decomposing corpses.
“My work is not to only take the victims out, I process the scene, I find more information, I understand how was the victim buried, what took place, I’m also a criminologist,” he says.
It’s a dangerous and daunting task in a country with one of the highest homicide rates in the world. An estimated 10,800 people have disappeared in El Salvador since 2010, according to police reports. Homicide rates peaked in 2016, with nearly 5,300 killed.
“Many of the cases in my country go unpunished, and the families of those victims are secondary victims,” Ticas says.
“They are unable to close the cycle of suffering and they will stay in that cycle forever.”