I have to write down my first feelings before getting use to this new reality. I arrived in Riohacha, capital city of the La Guajira Department, the 3rd of July and this place will be my home until middle of December. Getting off from the plane, I felt the heat and the smell of the sea right on my face.
I could say that I spent my first 2 days speechless because I was amazed by this new environment. The city is a colourful mix of crumbling buildings at the side of nice houses with gardens, local shops with signs painted on the walls and stalls by the beach and in the “old market”. Streets with uneven surfaces, trash, hungry dogs and small yellow taxis that honk at any corner complete this charming scene.
The second evening after my arrival we drove though one of the poorest parts of the city and we suddenly reached a “western style” shopping mall situated in the outskirst of this poor area. The shopping mall is protected by a fence and guards that give to the costumers a ticket with their own car registration number in order to check at the exit that who is driving the car is really its owner. What is more at the exit of the supermarket, they also check you receipt to make sure that what you are carrying has been paid. The contrast with the outside was pretty surprising and my astonishment was interrupted by Sabrina (one of my bosses) when she said “Bienvenida a Los Estados Unidos”.
My first excursion to the Wayuu community of Frijol made me discover the inland of la Guajira. When I first got off the car, the colours and the scent of the land reminded me of Sardinia. The temperature is high, the vegetation low and the ground consists mostly of sand. The trash that covers the ground ruins this new and wild landscape; it is literally everywhere and it gives the sensation that it is impossible to eliminate. It seems like it’s part of the landscape somehow.
I got to meet the first Wayuu community that is part of more than one of Aguayuda’s projects. What captured my attention is that people, mostly kids, are intrigued by white gringos. Smiley and shy at the beginning but ready to “play” after some time. I don’t know why but I directly made the connection with the kids that I see in Europe, full of gadgets and with brand clothes but seemingly less happy. People seem to “take it easy”; they offer a chair (or a hammock) and sit to have a chat. The rhythm of life is so far from what I’m used to and possibly reveals some contradictions that I will discuss later on.