BARRANQUILLA, Colombia – Hundreds of Venezuelan immigrants struggle to overcome hunger in an encampment devoid of power, water or even the most basic utilities in this Colombian city on the Caribbean coast.
Villa Robledo – a vast, arid plot of land once infamous among Barranquilla residents for providing a breeding ground for crime – is now home to some 650 Venezuelan immigrants, who have built their homes using construction waste, cans and pieces of wood they get from fallen trees found in nearby swamps.
Neivis Yohana, a 40-year-old immigrant from Maracay, Venezuela, told EFE that her 11-year-old daughter was forced to drop out of school back home due to “a lack of food.”
Like her three sons – who sell water bottles to heat-stricken locals – many Villa Robledo residents make a living as street vendors.
“My dream is to own a home, whether here or in Venezuela,” said Neivis, whose parents’ main income comes from the remittances she sends back to her native country.
In an effort to lead normal lives, a few Villa Robledo residents have illegally hooked up to the city’s power grid, while mothers improvise bonfires to cook meals for their family.
Something as simple as owning a bathroom remains a distant dream.