Coronavirus | why so many colombians have hung rags of red in their homes in the middle of the quarantine by the pandemic


Piece of red cloth in Colombia

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The piece of red cloth is on a path to become a symbol of the poverty in Colombia.

The fridge of Ruth Grisales has some potatoes, some onions and half a kilo of ground beef.

“I have it empty,” she complains. “Because of the lack of silver, of work, by this situation that we are living”, he adds, in reference to the quarantine by the coronavirus that already meets a month in the colombian capital, Bogota.

Grisales live in an apartment of two rooms in Altos de Cazucá, municipality of Soacha, a municipality of about 1,200,000 inhabitants in the suburb of the capital.

In the facade of your house, which it shares with a family of four, Grisales put a piece of red cloth “to inform you that we are hungry, the need is great for all of us.”

A piece of red cloth as a cry for help that was repeated in the facade of many of its neighbors in this huge hill lined in informal housing, and that begins to spread to the country as a new symbol of protest against the poverty that lives in the seventh most unequal in the world, according to the World Bank.

Grisales, a single mother of a child, he came 7 years ago in Bogota, fleeing the violence and lack of jobs of its people, Puerto Berrío, in the deep interior of the country. Until the quarantine, I was working every day of the week in a house other than the northern affluent of the city as a housemaid.

“Now, everything took a turn,” he says. “My work is ended, and none of the employers has been dedicated or call me to ask how I am.”

Grisales will question how you will pay 250,000 pesos (US$60) of the next income; how is it going to do to not prolong the hunger: “If before we ate three dishes, as one eats one”, he says.

Your case is not very different from that of the locals live, and millions of colombians, in a country where the half of employment is informal and is now frozen because of the quarantine.

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Ruth used to work as a domestic in five separate houses of the north of Bogotá. You do not know your patterns a month ago.

The informal, the most affected

In the block of Soacha, where he lives Grisales, the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) reports a multidimensional poverty 60%: more than half of the people have deficiencies not only of income but of education, health and work.

It is a poverty three times higher than that of the rest of the country.

Colombians as Ruth, to which are added the majority of the 2 million venezuelans who arrived in the country, are the most affected by the economic stagnation of the quarantine. “So we get a day, we spend the other,” she explains.

The state apparatus colombian attempts to alleviate the crisis of the vulnerable with subsidies, soft loans and suspension of payments.

In Soacha, as in other municipalities, the mayor’s office delivered thousands of bags with rice, lentils and flour in the colleges and places where people hours ago row. Also conducts tours through the neighborhoods delivering markets.

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The mayor’s office of Soacha, as well as others in the country, are delivering markets to the vulnerable, a practice uncommon in the country historically allergic to populism.

The mayor of the municipality, Juan Saldarriaga, said that he had thought of the strategy of the piece of red cloth to identify the most vulnerable families and be able to deliver the basket without the need of interviews and bureaucracy.

“There are sectors that, as you were, where 98% of people need that help,” he tells BBC World.

“But there are others where that need is more sporadic, so that the flag has served to identify it”.

“The cloth not only serves us to locate the hungry, but also to neighbors to generate solidarity among them“says Saldarriaga.

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The poverty in some neighbourhoods of Soacha, a municipality satellite of Bogota, is three times higher than that of the rest of the country.

Ruth corroborated: “If it is not because there are people that I collaborated with a librita of something (food), we already had died of starvation.”

To the extent that it extends the quarantine, which in theory ends the 27th of April, the tension in this type of neighborhoods of Colombia, historically affected by displacement and violence, has increased.

Have been reported protests, repressed by the riot police, and shootings. Over the weekend there was a curfew in Soacha.

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In several of these neighborhoods hit by the quarantine have been reported protests and riots with the police in the last few days.

Symbol of need a symbol of protest

“The cloth is on the way to move from being a call of ‘come and help me’ to become a symbol of protest,” predicts Mark Gonzalez, historian, expert on culture.

Five months ago, millions of colombians took to the streets to march against the government of Ivan Duke with pans in hands. Pans and pots are deformed by the blows of protest became the symbol of political demands, cultural and economic of one of the civil movements most significant of the recent history of the country.

“The people in desperation grabs a symbol to let off steam, “Gonzalez says.

In the majority of colombian homes usually have a piece of red cloth: some of you will say “bayetilla”, others “dulceabrigo”, others “panola”. Is used to clean the dust, the car, the windows.

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Ruth waves his red flag. You are concerned about not only the hungry, but to be able to pay the rent in this area, south of Bogotá.

Also you usually see in butchers ‘ shops, or in the hand of the characters that invite the restaurants on the roads.

The man’s clothing in Sanjuanero, a folk dance most important in the country, takes a piece of red cloth —a “tail and’ cock”— in the neck.

And the Liberal Party, which for a century was one of the two most significant political movements of the country, I used to “wave the piece of red cloth” in the name of the workers, of the weak.

“Party rebels, influenced by the French Revolution and then the Socialist International, take the red flag to be identified, and in Colombia then went on to be a derogatory way by conservatives to refer to liberals as a collective with little rational and prosopopéyico”, explains the historian Rodrigo Llano, an expert in this game.

The mayor of Soacha, adds: “This is the red of the honest work and humble, the flag (of Colombia), the blood spilled by the colombians in search of freedom from independence until today”.

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Originated in Soacha, but already several neighborhoods in Bogotá and the rest of the country took out their piece of red cloth.

Carolina Jiménez, a seller on a street of nail files that lives in Cazucá, sees it differently: “We are screaming that we are hungry”.

“We like is the rice with egg for breakfast, broth, rib at lunch and a bread with chocolate in the food (dinner)”.

“But now it is reduced to a dish just”, he says. “Of rest we are taking water and’ panela (sugar)”.

BBC World news asks you for the food that you have inside the fridge.

And Jimenez, who is the mother of two children and resides with an adult, older, disabled, responds: “No, that cooler so much without using it is damaged“.

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