Carol Castillo, the impact of an identification

For Carol, an identification goes beyond numbers. It is to give back the name, personality and body to the person who disappeared. Meet Carol, Human Identification Assitant, in this edition of our “Staff Spotlight”.

Meet Carol

My name is Carolina but I like to be called Carol. My first language is sign language, I am curious and my favorite hobby is singing. My favorite phrase is a personal adaptation of a phrase my grandfather used to say: “If you do something with passion, everything will be fine.”

Hello Carol, tell us, what is your job at FAFG and what tasks do you perfom?

am a Human Identification Assistant. In summary, when the Forensic Genetics Department reports a match between a skeletal remain and a family group, we collect and analyze all the information related to those remains and the Disappeared victim, collected by other technical areas. This leads us to determine if the match is an identification or if we need to investigate further. Also, as a result of all the identifications that have arisen, we investigate, analyze, and formulate hypotheses about possible new identifications or about the information that we need to collect to confirm more identifications.

What led you to work as a Human Identification Assistant?

When I was at university, what I wanted to do was “assemble puzzles.”  That’s what it is like to do an investigation, you have to put the pieces together until you have the whole picture. I never imagined that in the Department of Confirmation of Human Identification that I was going to be putting together a puzzle, but I like it a lot.

How long have you been at the FAFG and how were your first work experiences?

I have been in the FAFG for two years. From the start, I felt very welcome. At the beginning, we spent a week learning from other areas about the processes we use. It was interesting because we learned the basics about all of the work. Also, in 2016 I was a volunteer in the Forensic Anthropology Laboratory. I remember that during that time I washed the skeletal remains from the Santa Avelina case in San Juan Cotzal, Quiché, and there were many children’s remains. This had a great impact on me and motivated me to want to continue doing my job for the sake of seeking justice.

Working in the Department of Confirmation of Human Identification, can you share with us any case that has impacted you?

There are many. One of them is a match from a recovered skeleton in the old San Juan Comalapa military detachment. We looked up all the information on the case and I found the interview of the victim’s sister very interesting. The skeleton belonged to a teacher who worked in Tecpán. One day, she and her husband were taken. She was pregnant. When we reviewed the information on the recovered skeleton, we also found the bones of a newborn within the pelvis of those remains. I was very impressed by how they managed to exhume those very small bones and that a pregnant woman was in the detachment.

As of July 20, 2021, a total of 3,711 people identified by the FAFG are reported.

“Despite difficulties, we did not stop and confirmed 154 identifications last year.” – Carol Castillo

What is your motivation to keep doing this job?

To see the results, to know that I can continue to do more, and that my work is that grain of sand contributing to something bigger. For the department, a result can be an identification, but an identification goes further. It is to give back the name, personality, and body to that person who disappeared. It is helping their family close a cycle and also contributing to justice.

What is your vision for the FAFG? What impact do you want to see?

My vision is to be able to confirm all the identifications and that the work we do speaks for itself. That FAFG be recognized, nationally and internationally, as a scientific entity that dignifies Disappeared people, and provides justice.

What lessons have you learned from this pandemic?

Mainly, it taught me to be grateful. To be thankful for my health, time with my family, my work, and life in general. Unfortunately, I have seen people get sick and die from COVID-19. That shocked me and gave me another perspective of making the most of my life. In the professional sense, it taught me to be resilient, adapt to changes and know that you can continue to do the job. Despite these difficulties, we did not stop and confirmed 154 identifications last year.

Any message for the readers of this interview?

All your work and effort is valid and part of something bigger. Motivate yourself to find out about what is happening in your country / city and find a space to get involved and contribute.

If you want to contribute to the work we do and have a family member who disappeared between 1960 and 1996, you can contact us. At the FAFG, we are committed to searching for the Disappeared and we continue working to obtain all possible identifications.

Mention three words with wich you identify the FAFG:

Commitment, progressive, and scientific.

Since 1997, we assist families in the search of their Disappeared loved ones.

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