Elizabeth and her family

Elizabeth and her family

Elizabeth Carmargo Andrades

69 Years Old
Food Seller
From Bocas de Aracataca, Magdalena

Elizabeth was born and raised in Bocas de Aracataca before being displaced by paramilitary forces to Barrio El Oasis on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

Now a widow, she survives by borrowing $150,000 Pesos ($48 US) every month from paga diarios, illegal money lenders of her impoverished community. To pay the monthly debt, she sells fried snacks at no more than $200 Pesos each (6 cents US) and combines her earnings with those of her sons — fishermen who venture deep into Santa Marta’s Gran Cienaga lagoon twice a month for six days at a time. On some occasions their canoes come back completely empty. Together, they help maintain a family of 11, all living in a 22 by 13 -foot house made of scrap wood and plastic.

Elizabeth recalls the time before her displacement, when her family had enough food, education, public services, and the fishing was easy. Now, basic services like electricity only come during government elections, she says. “Poor people do not matter”. With no running water or sewerage in her home, she bathes with a bucket and throws her waste behind the house.

In Bocas de Aracataca we were poor but we had everything we needed. What you see here [in El Oasis] is the product of our husbands’ lungs, this used to be only water and marshland.