2019 Photo Contest, Long-Term Projects, Stories, 2nd Prize

The House That Bleeds


Yael Martínez

07 November, 2015

Dried cactus roots on a wall in Tixtla, Guerrero. In 2014, municipal police ambushed a convoy of buses carrying students from Tixtla’s Ayotzinapa teachers’ training college. Five people were killed, another student’s body was later found showing signs of torture, and 43 others disappeared without trace.

8 October 2013 -  4 November 2018

Across Mexico, more than 37,400 people have been categorized as ‘missing’ by official sources. The vast majority of those are believed to be dead—victims of ongoing violence that has claimed more than 250,000 lives since 2006. These disappearances are the source of lasting psychological trauma for families left behind.
The violence has its roots in the war on Mexico’s powerful drugs cartels instigated by President Felipe Calderón during his 2006–2012 term of office, and continued by his successor, Enrique Peña Nieto. The ensuing violence has led to a catastrophic rise in murder rates and in the number of unsolved disappearances, which is aided by corruption and impunity. President Nieto promised an end to violence, but although homicides declined, authorities seemed unable to restore the rule of law or make much progress in the struggle against cartels. Among the states most affected are Sinaloa and Guerrero, which was included in a list of no-travel zones by the US government in 2018. 
In 2013, one of the photographer’s brothers-in-law was killed and another two disappeared. This led him to begin documenting the resultant psychological and emotional fracture in his own family and in the families of other missing people, to give a personal account of the despair and sense of absence that accrues over time.

About the photographer

Yael Martínez

Yael Martínez's work addresses fractured communities in his native Mexico. He often works symbolically to evoke a sense of emptiness, absence, and pain suffered by those affe...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
Focal length
24 mm
Canon EOS 6D

This image is collected in