Community in Venezuela bonds amid violence

CARACAS, Venezuela – “The bullet holes are right outside my door – a reminder of where they murdered him, right outside his house,” says Aryelis, whose son was shot dead by police here in 2017.

Mothers, sisters and wives tell the stories of the men who lost their lives in Special Action Forces operations in the hillside neighborhood of La Vega. The police unit, known as FAES for its acronym in Spanish, has terrorized working-class barrios in the Venezuelan capital for years. He is accused of criminalize young men for where they live.

La Vega’s turn came in early 2021.

The community calls it the “La Vega Massacre”. Main gang of Caracas – The Washington Post withholds his name to protect the security of the people photographed for this story – had infiltrated the neighborhood. For months, residents have been at the mercy of the gang and the police, enduring raids, mass detentions and regular gunfire.

On January 7, 2021, the FAES raided the neighborhood. Twenty-three people were killed, according to independent observers. The government disputes this figure.

Despite the losses, the inhabitants fought to find moments of joy. La Vega is a cultural center in Caracas, maintaining Afro-Venezuelan traditions in drumming and other arts. Even during gunfire and raids, locals carried on these traditions, albeit behind closed doors.

This long-term project, “What’s Left”, follows the lives of those most affected by this violence: women, who face devastating grief as they provide for their families, ask justice and attempt to heal. In La Vega, women are the driving force of the community, organizing recreational activities, food distribution programs and providing other forms of support.

By getting to know the women of La Vega, I hoped to show their resilience and effort heal. I asked what remains, what is saved, what life looks like after tragedy. In a region where violence is normalized, these images reflect the power of the community.

This work was done in partnership with the Pulitzer Center and will continue with support from the Getty Images Inclusion Grant.

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