Ersilia Carranza, left, Nubia Pineda, center, and Luchy Rodriguez dance next to the tomb of their friend Jorge, who died nine days before, at the General Cemetery in Guatemala City, Sept. 7, 2012. "Here in Guatemala we're screwed, but we laugh at everything, even death", said Byron Flores to The Associated Press.
Rodrigo Abd / AP — In Guatemala, which has one of the highest mortality rates in the world and where violence is rampant, burial grounds have transformed into social spaces where relatives and friends of the deceased drink and dance as photographers are hired to take pictures and musicians play during funerals. Meanwhile, workers exhume bodies from plots that are behind on their payments, street peddlers set up shop and children play hide-and-seek.
Six years after a burial in the General Cemetery in Guatemala City relatives must pay around U.S. $24 to renew the burial plot for another four years, according to cemetery rules. If there is no payment, cemetery workers exhume the body and place the corpse in a mass grave. Over 2,000 bodies are exhumed annually after relatives fail to pay cemetery fees.
EDITOR’S NOTE: These images were made available to NBC News on Sept. 27.
Juana Lopez, 70, takes a nap as she waits for customers during funerals at the General Cemetery in Guatemala City, July 21.
Musicians from the band Los Tacuazines leave the General Cemetery in Guatemala City, Aug. 23. The band charges U.S. $38 to play eight songs during funerals.