Photos by the authors.
We wake up at 8: 00 am, with Ana, the receptionist of our carwash/brothel/pool/club/hotel already inside our room: “How did you sleep, guys?” We are forced to open our eyes as she smiles and shows us her phone, “Look at this message I got today: ‘Dear Cucuteños, the next few days will be of great importance for our city. Many will come from different places, and it’s our opportunity to show them our kind spirit and our open hearts.’” Ana isn’t going to the concert, but she’s excited about what it means.
Yesterday, our taxi driver told us the city was very excited about what was going on. He did mention the importance of helping the neighboring country, but we could tell he was truly excited about the music.
Cucuta is a hectic, aggressive city, with many problems and blessings. But today, everyone seems to be focused on one thing: Venezuela Aid Live.
Jorge, 33: “I come from Caracas. I’ve been here for six months, but I’m not a migrant, I’m a traveler. The humanitarian aid is bullshit. We don’t need that. This is all the USA’s fault. They block our funds for food and medicine and then they try to help us. How is that possible? No one voted for Guaidó. Instead, Maduro won his election, fair and square. I think if we go on like this we are going to end up with two governments, two PDVSAs, two countries. Still, I have to tell you, I really like Maná. I would go to the concert to hear them play. I like them a lot.”
“Living in the street isn’t as hard as you’d think”
Yeison, 22: “Yes, I’ll go to the concert with my wife and daughter. Right now I’m trying to get some money to buy them food. Here, it isn’t so hard to live on the street, it’s a relaxed city with a lot of money. I lived in Caracas for seven years. Today, it’s the shadow of what it once was. Do you want some weed? I have weed at 5.000 pesos, I can get it cheaper if you want. Can you get me 2.000 pesos? Thanks, bro. Have fun at the concert. It’s gonna be fun.”
“I just want to work”
Gómez, 44: “I got here three weeks ago. I sold fruit in Venezuela, and I sell fruit here. I don’t really have the energy to care about the concert. I have to work, I have other stuff to worry about.”
“I worry about war”
Diana, 19: “I’m scared because of the concert. I’ll be there, but working as a volunteer. We got a message and about 250 people went to the first gathering. I’m from Maracay and I’ll get the day off tomorrow. I came to Cucuta with a large group, nine women and six children. My mom and sister are still in Venezuela. I worry about war. This is scary and tense for everyone.”
As we walk the street we see a group of homeless women and children. One of them has a bag with the colors of the Venezuelan flag (the same colors of the Colombian flag, by the way). “We come from Machiques,” says one of them when I ask them about their situation. I sit with them and ask them some questions. They see we have a bag of Andean pastelitos and ask me for some food. I give them the pastelitos and keep one for myself. “More,” says one of them with her hand wide open in front of my face. I tell her I haven’t had lunch and that I just wanted to know a bit about how they got here. “More,” they all say again.
“We can handle bombs with our eyes closed”
Juan Diego: “I don’t think I’ll go to the concert. It scares me. Too many people under the piercing sun. We have seen many events go wrong because people get drunk and tired. It has happened in happy, normal events. This isn’t a happy normal event. Colombians and Venezuelans may fight each other. Security may be messy. We don’t even know if they are going to close the border. What will happen if those people get stuck here? There were some news about bombs today. But bombs are the least of my worries. We are Cucuta. We can handle bombs with our eyes closed.”
“I like art, but will it help me live?”
Daniel, 27: “I got here three days ago. I was scared living in Venezuela, I was scared when I chose to leave, I was scared when I walked here, and now, I’m still scared. I rent a room, and I have to pay daily. All I’m good at is art. I like art, I love it. But will it help me live?”
“If Maduro leaves, it’s a win for both Venezuelans and Colombians”
Fernando, 54: “Tomorrow we all get the day off so people can go to the concert. Still, I don’t see people are too excited about it. Street vendors are not allowed inside. I heard there was a bomb threat, but we got anti-bomb squads and dogs to protect the area. The concert is going to have air security and all. A couple of presidents are coming. If we manage to end this shitshow, if Maduro leaves, it’s a win for both Venezuelans and Colombians.”