I’ve come from Buenaventura, from the Humanitarian Space in Puente Nayero. I’ve come from talking and sharing with the women there. I’ve come back impacted and I want to tell you about it.
The women of Puente Nayero are beautiful, rounded, they walk like they are dancing and when they smile they light up. But they’ve had it hard, very hard, and it’s always been that way. Because this street marked their lives.
The street of the Nayeros Bridge is in the Playita neighbourhood of Buenaventura, at the sea’s shore where the fishermen live. 60 years ago this street didn’t exist. There was only sea. Because Puente Nayero is land reclaimed from the Pacific by piling up, with great effort, tonnes and tonnes of rubbish, shells and rubble.
And they were there, the women. They still remember the stink, so much pain, and the extreme poverty.
When the street was finished, the wooden houses, standing in the water on very tall wooden piles, flanked either side of the fixed ramp which the street ran along.
And in those times the women savoured their happiness, celebrating each day.
But the violence came to the Nayeros Bridge too. The street fell under paramilitary control. There were curfews, shoot outs, protection ‘vacunas’ to be paid, and you could hear the screams of the people being dismembered in the ‘chopping houses’.
And the women, amidst the horror, locked themselves in their houses, afraid, and some were brutally raped.
On 13 April 2014, Puente Nayero created the Humanitarian Space and was granted precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the protection of the civilian population.
And these same women, battered and utterly traumatised, are the ones who came out of their houses to fill the streets with their joy.
Where will these women find the strength to raise children, fetch water, braid their hair, dance, play bingo and even lead community processes. Even if many of them cry when they tell their story, they’re still there. They don’t falter. They continue.
How can you not admire these brave women… these tenacious women who give life.