By Eira González.
María Agustina sold her long hair, the one she carefully treated, to feed their four children. The kids’ had been spent three days without eating any food. During 72 hours, she calmed their crying with water. The money she got will be enough to feed their children just for two weeks.
“I decided to sell my hair because I was out of desperation, watching my kids crying for food. As a mother, is something too hard for me,” assured María Agustina, a woman from the ethnic Wayuu, who lives in Paraiguapoa, in La Guajira municipality, Zulia state, next to the border with Colombia.
María has been out of work for six months since the national quarantine for COVID-19 began. Before that, she worked selling drinks and water on the border of Paraguachon, but the border checkpoint is closed, under military custody who watch the returning migrants, those who Nicolás Maduro accused as responsible for spreading the virus in Venezuela.
That Saturday, September 12, after three days of forced fasting for their kids, she sold 50cm of her hair for 70.000 Colombian pesos (around 18 USD). Enough to buy milk, five kilos of rice and cornflour, sugar, pasta, vegetable oil, and a chicken that she makes up for five lunch.
For the Wayuu woman, hair is a symbol of purity and a gift fro God. Maria Agustina has 20 years taking care of her hair. Barely cut it like 2cm twice a year. The desperation of seeing and hearing her children cry from hunger led her to let go of what she considered the most sacred of her body.
“When that man was cutting my hair, I felt an emptiness in my heart. I asked for forgiveness to Maleiwa (Wayuu God) for making this decision, but it was to save my kids from the starvation we are living through.”
A cousin gave her the idea and a phone number. María Agustina sold her hair to a neighbor in Paraguaipoa. Later, that neighbor sold it in Barranquilla hairdressers. She knows about other two moms who did the same thing. According to the Human Rights Commission in Zulia state, malnutrition in minors increased during the quarantine in La Guajira.
In the last six months, without working, the hunger arrived at the little home of Maria Agustina. Her family went from eating three times a day to eating only once and sometimes not even once. Her only option is to walks 20 km every morning to the beach to beg for fish for their children.
“My four kids have been suffering for six months. I don’t have any help. In this land, many children have died from hunger. Meanwhile, the Government is saying that in La Guajira nothing is missing,” she said