To die alone, anonymous and far from home is among the darkest fates in many cultures. The forgotten dead are often relegated to paupers’ graves and forlorn, unmarked tombs. For decades, people of Puerto Berrio, a village in central Colombia, have revered the nameless corpses found floating in the Magdalena River.
Colombia’s bloodletting has left the country with a macabre puzzle. The government says 61,825 people have been reported missing and there are records of more than 11,000 unidentified corpses. Colombians call these unknown dead NNs, for ningún nombre, or no name.
In Puerto Berrio, these anonymous dead are re-christened, and their tombs are often lovingly decorated and peppered with gifts. In exchange, many believe the NNs will grant favors – perhaps even miracles.