PHOTOREPORT: Quarantine in Perspective

For the inhabitants of La Paz, “reinventing” is not something new. Since its founding, they’ve been doing it. However, the Covid-19 virus imposes a late challenge on them, which they must take on with numerous limitations.

“Rain is a blessing. But it also brings us the problem that the trucks filled with water tanks can’t access the neighborhood because the tracks turn muddy. I’ve had to return several trucks filled with water tanks because that gets ugly.” These words of Mercedes Gómez, community leader of La Paz, capture well the resistance and strength of those who inhabit that corner of Cartagena.

The community of La Paz is located on the outside wall of Cartagena, 45 minutes from its Historical Center, and is part of the neighborhoods surrounding the industrial area of Mamonal. La Paz is a territory of picturesque houses founded with peak and stick a September 15 ten years ago.

Since its founding, the community of La Paz has been forced to reinvent itself, “so that we are continuously starting from scratch,” says Mercedes. While it’s true that we’ve always managed on our own, now, 2020 has surprised us and tested,” she adds. The many constraints, such as the lack of health posts, food security, state security, and drinking water, have jeopardized the ability to reinvent itself from its inhabitants.

When it rains, the trucks filled with water tanks tasked with bringing water to La Paz get stuck in the neighborhood. Sometimes, Mercedes Gomez, a community leader, has had to return them to avoid these incidents.

Mercedes points out that at the beginning of the pandemic, they were invaded by doubts: “Will we have the ability to deal with this pandemic? “. To all these questions, the answer is and has always been a resounding no.

In Cheap Rice, the neighborhood with which it borders is the only Health Center that its inhabitants can access. More than seven communities, such as El Mirador, Henequén, and 20 de Julio, are also dependent on its facilities. On the spot, the conditions of infrastructure, equipment, and tools leave a lot to be desired; some patients point out.

The inhabitants of La Paz are aware that older adults are most at risk of Covid-19, so they make constant visits to that population to ensure that they are in good health and do not need food and hygiene products. “One very street, we have a leader who tracks the elders. Here we organize food collections with the neighbors, everyone who contributes what they can; the humanitarian aid provided by the Mayor’s Day only came to us once, a few days ago, after two months of quarantine. Thank God we have the support of an organization that comes every 20 days to bring us food,” says Mercedes.

In La Paz, most families are engaged in informal work. Some are street vendors who continue to go out with their forklifts to sell; others work in Bazurto by throwing their ribs on their shoulders; women are mainly housewives. “There are few who work in companies here,” she adds, “something that has served us a lot are the government subsidies, with young people, older adults, and families who are in aid programs.”

From the beginning of quarantine, the families of La Paz gather every Monday and Thursday to fill their containers with water. Without the liquid, they would be highly vulnerable to contagion.

Energy for high temperatures

It should be borne in mind that COVID-19 has changed the landscape of electricity demand in the country. In May, the average power generation was 174.7 gigawatt-hours per day, higher by 4.8% at 166.6-gigawatt hours in April, according to the latest reports from XM, a subsidiary of ISA manages the electricity market.

In the houses of La Paz, the most used appliances are the fans. For Mercedes, it becomes essential that the blades stay ventilated between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. due to the overwhelming heat that gets to cut off the breath. She, as a leader, oversees the tracking of electricity bill payments. “Here, the highest bill comes in at $40,000 or $45,000. Stores, which always consume more energy, get $100,000 onwards,” she argues.

However, in recent months transformers have exploded on several occasions due to the extra energy that heats and melts their circuits. The residents of La Paz hold Electricaribe, the company responsible for the distribution and commercialization of power in the Caribbean Region, accountable for its little commitment to installing the third transformer in the sector. “Here we have been with that transformer for four years. He’s missing a pole. I placed one, they put another, and another is missing. Here we respect its parameters, because if not long ago the community would have so,” says Mercedes, “we have put the lamps and reflectors there. But we don’t get enough for coverage of the whole neighborhood. That’s why, in the dark corners, the owners take advantage of the stranger.”

Four years ago, the transformer that is missing for efficient energy service in the neighborhood rested under the dust.

Urban neighborhoods without water and sanitation?

In the houses of La Paz, the most used appliances are the fans. For Mercedes, it becomes essential that the blades stay ventilated between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. due to the overwhelming heat that gets to cut off the breath. She, as a leader, oversees the tracking of electricity bill payments. “Here, the highest bill comes in at $40,000 or $45,000. Stores, which always consume more energy, get $100,000 onwards,” she argues.

However, in recent months transformers have exploded on several occasions due to the extra energy that heats and melts their circuits. The residents of La Paz hold Electricaribe, the company responsible for the distribution and commercialization of power in the Caribbean Region, accountable for its little commitment to installing the third transformer in the sector. “Here we have been with that transformer for four years. He’s missing a pole. I placed one, they put another, and another is missing. Here we respect its parameters, because if not long ago the community would have so,” says Mercedes, “we have put the lamps and reflectors there. But we don’t get enough for coverage of the whole neighborhood. That’s why, in the dark corners, the owners take advantage of the stranger.”

Four years ago, the transformer that is missing for efficient energy service in the neighborhood rested under the dust.

Urban neighborhoods without water and sanitation?

Every Monday and Thursday, there are three trucks filled with water tanks to supply water to 550 families in La Paz. The water has no subsequent treatment but is handled directly as it comes in the trucks filled with water tanks, confident that it is safe drinking water.

The residents of La Paz dream of one day having drinking water in their homes. During this period, they thank the District Administration for not squat and hope that after the crisis, aqueduct and sewerage networks will install them.

Monthly, Acuacar officials give them a record of writing down the number of packers available in the month. “This month, we were given 27 vouchers for every truck filled with water tanks; we sign a voucher. In case they don’t reach us, they don’t give us the water,” Mercedes tells us as she signs the delivery certificate for Thursday’s trucks filled with water tanks. Despite the circumstances and limitations, in La Paz solidarity is remarkable: the neighbors who managed to acquire large containers share the water with their co-parties when they run out.

“Those the packing company complains because there are so many small tanks and the water destructionists get very tired filling them up, but we try to make them understand that we had never received water in raids, but that we set the water on our shoulders to jug it in the houses. There’s nothing open where we can buy it; it’s time to be patient,” she ends.

Weekly, La Paz has six packers to stock up on water. After discharge, the liquid does not receive any treatment for use.

Solidarity: Engine of change

At the beginning of June, we delivered 300 covered people to the community with the support of the Cooperative Weaving Peace and  Manifest  Columbia. It’s clear that if we’re talking about reinventing ourselves, at Columbia, community leadership building territory becomes visible.

We just thank community leaders like Mercedes for their excellent work, dedication, and commitment to the territory.

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