Colombia | Caught in the Drug Wars, a Photo Essay by Photographer Zoraida Lopez

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Between 1998 and 2008, approximately one million acres of Colombian land was used for the cultivation of coca leaves, the main ingredient used to produce cocaine. The high production of Colombian cocaine has created a dangerous drug trafficking climate with the civilian population caught in the crossfire. This has led to a loss of land, forced displacement, kidnappings, massacres, and countless disappearances, which in turn has left thousands of children, including many girls, without homes or parents.

The cocaine market has also produced the “mule,” a term to describe individuals at the lowest level of the drug trading hierarchy. These “mules” are often poor, young women and girls, who, because of their own desperation, carry out the jobs that no one else wants to do—transport drugs within or on their bodies. One of the most serious topics in our society today is drug addiction. It is no longer news that there are countless individuals on drugs who want treatment. Unlike what several addicts and troubled family members are thinking, there is a solution to the crisis, like checking in to a drug rehab. The outcome of drug addiction is not only restricted to the patient but it can also disturb the individuals around him or her. This explains the reason why the problem must be addressed as fast as possible. Any delay may be dangerous. CBD affects learning positively and it also motivates learning. It is also helpful in reversing the symptoms of the Alzheimer disease. You can get a heart that is healthier by the use of the CBD. CBD has a lot of benefits that it brings to the heart, these include the capability of lowering high levels of blood pressure. Daily intake of cbd gummy rings can also be used as a therapeutic cure for symptoms like stress and anxiety, thus helping in the reduction of psychological levels of anxious behavior. It also helps in reducing the feeling of depression and anxiety. Go ahead and click here to visit the best rehab center website and find more information.

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It is also a good idea for anybody grappling with drug addiction to go for group counseling sessions. You can select private counseling sessions with psychiatrists and professionals that know how to assist people like you. The result of this is that you or the addict will be able to come to grips with the crisis of addiction and turn into a normal individual again. The right kind of medication is another measures that can be used to cope with drug addiction. There are countless medications available that can be taken to check the cravings for drugs. Two very good examples are Methadone and Suboxen. What these drugs do is that they give the addict the feeling that he or she is on drugs when actually he or she is not. The consequence is that the cravings for drugs will be restricted drastically.

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In 2011, I travelled to Medellin, Colombia. For eight days, I lived in Pedregal, a maximum-security women’s prison where the vast majority of women I met were serving sentences for drug trafficking or drug related crimes.  While there, I taught photography to twelve of the women who were incarcerated and later curated an exhibition of their work at both Pedregal and the Paul Bardwell Gallery in Medellin.

To understand the depth and impact of a problem as large as the cocaine industry, we need to understand the communities and networks it impacts. We must speak with the women and families who have lost their land to drug wars and to the children who have lost their parents.

In January this year, I returned to Colombia to continue my work with the women at Pedregal and to document the stories of those who have been effected by the cocaine industry. I returned because I believe that in order to understand the depth and impact of a problem as large as the cocaine industry, we need to understand the communities and networks it impacts. We must speak with the women and families who have lost their land to drug wars and to the children who have lost their parents.

These images are the result of my last two trips to Colombia. They capture everyday girls who will grow up to become women in Colombia. They underscore the conditions in Colombia that cause women and girls to be vulnerable—a vulnerability that derives from Colombia’s cocaine industry. They capture both the pain and the possibilities in their lives.

Throughout this ongoing project, I am continually moved by the resilience and hope the camera captures in these girls. They face adversity with their heads held high. This is my work: to use my lens to counter rampant stereotypical images of Latina women and girls. As a daughter of Latino immigrants, I believe it is my responsibility to show the positive spirit of these girls.

Image oneZoraida Lopez

“Clarita” and her pet bird along a mountainside in Minca, Colombia. Clarita’s entire family lost their home to paramilitary drug traffickers in the mid-1990s. She now lives in a small family farm with her parents, older brother, and younger sister. Her grandparents also lost their land and now live along the same mountainside.


DSC_0903Zoraida Lopez

“Gloria Maria Elena” in Quibdo, a small city located in the Choco region of  Colombia. “Gloria Maria Elena” has never left Quibdo. Local warfare has made routine traveling within Choco, a region of expanse of jungles and rivers, virtually impossible. Guerrillas and paramilitary groups often battle over the land for coca cultivation and for smuggling routes to the Pacific Ocean.


image threeZoraida Lopez

“Maria” is serving a two-year sentence for drug trafficking at Pedregal, the maximum security prison in Medellin, Colombia. Under Colombian law, her baby will be able to live with her in prison until he or she is three years old.


image twoZoraida Lopez

“Alejandra,” shares a one-room apartment with her sister and her sister’s baby in Medellin, Colombia. She has been living on her own for three years. She was born in a rural part of the country, but her family lost their farm to a paramilitary group and was forced to move to Medellin. She aspires to become a pediatrician.

Zoraida Lopez is best known for her images concerning race, immigration, juvenile justice, and gender relations. Her work has been exhibited at galleries including Rush Arts and Whitewall in New York City. Zoraida is currently teaching photography to youth residing in detention centers in Connecticut and to girls in the South Bronx, New York. She is the chair of the National Black Female Photographers Group-New York City chapter.




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