Riohacha is the capital of the most northerly Colombian department of La Guajira, home to a unique landscape of desert and beach rich with indigenous Wayuú custom and craft. It is host to a wildly diverse population and a fiercely strong sense of identity and cultural protection. It is also the poorest part of the country and it shares a 249km porous border with Venezuela along which there are 216 unauthorised crossing points or ‘trochas’ at which refugees are at risk of exploitation and attack. Despite sharing many of the needs, scarcities and instabilities with some of the places across the border, Riohacha is one of 3 Colombian municipalities that is host to the greatest number of Venezuelan refugees many of whom survive in informal settlements in the outskirts of the city. There is insecurity, xenophobia and multidimensional poverty but there is resilience, advocacy and allyship too. 

I met with some extraordinary Venezuelan women that embody that resilience and practice that advocacy and allyship every day. They are leading their communities toward a sense of inclusive belonging and an empowered reclaiming of their right to freedom from fear. I was grateful for their generosity of time and the energy they spent sharing their stories with me.

I’ll look forward to properly organising the deep reflections and putting words to the insights that were bounced around out here on the northern coast of Colombia - in the meantime, I’m heading to the salsa capital of Cali in the southwest ✈️

Abi Nolan, 2023