Forgotten in Dust is a photo-documentary that maps life in La Guajira, a peninsula in Colombia that juts into the Caribbean Sea. Its fate intertwines with the core challenges of our time, from extractive industries to mass migrations to climate change. The region’s history is a distillation of the problems facing the whole world.
La Guajira is a desert, crisscrossed by migrants and contraband smugglers. It’s also a frontier, the natural border between Colombia and Venezuela, two nations that have grown apart like bickering siblings.
The Wayuu, the Indigenous people in La Guajira, live in conditions so precarious that their name has become synonymous with extreme poverty in Colombia. Corruption depletes emergency aid, while local politicians break their promises of development, causing abandonment.
During the past five years, I have made frequent trips to La Guajira, living there for months at a time, to document people’s life-and-death battle with extreme forces.
Life here is dire for 1 million people: 80% live in poverty; 30% are illiterate; 90% don’t have formal employment. People eke out an existence with meager government handouts or loose change from smugglers running gasoline and Venezuelan goods through the ancestral Wayuu territory.
La Guajira is also home to one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines. Drillings, explosions, and soaring demand for water have encroached on people’s homes, pushing them away from the precious water sources that shaped their history.
This collection of photographs is the result of the trust and access built over my five-year journey into people’s intimacy. As the friendship grew, so did a sense of responsibility to raise their voice. Ultimately, photography became a form of protest against indifference. As people continue to suffer, I continue to document their hardship. Their testimony shows the world that La Guajira exists.