12 March 2024

Visiting Puerto Quijarro

Carla Nunes Marins documents a
week-long trip in Bolivia


by Kate Mothes

A landlocked nation in South America rich in natural resources, Bolivia is almost among the poorest, with more than a third of the country living in poverty, and 10 percent in the extreme. There are economic disparities between rural and urban areas and vast inequalities especially for Indigenous people, which comprise more than 40 percent of the population, and women.

Following a missionary caravan organized by the Missão Evangélica do Brazil, or MEB, photographer Carla Nunes Marins traveled 35 hours by bus from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to visit a community of families around the Bolivian city of Puerto Quijarro. For one week, she accompanied missionaries as they delivered food and supplies to people who have increasingly little or no access to basic essentials.

As a photojournalist, Marins focuses on the stories that people—and the places they call home–can tell, giving “visibility to the ‘invisibles,'” she says, “using the concept of place as a backdrop for powerful narratives.” While in Puerto Quijarro, she captured images of the work carried out by MEB volunteers while also meeting and learning from local residents with the aim of contextualizing and providing voices to those who inhabit places few others visit. By homing in on specific details of their dwellings and lives, like coffee cups or centerpieces of the home, Marins wants to make it personal, urging us to see the humanity with the hope it will spur further action.

“I closely followed the distribution of basic food baskets, hygiene kits, sweets, clothes, and school supplies,” Marins said. She had the opportunity to talk to some families and listen to their needs and stories in detail, including a man named Mr. Sebastião, who passed away shortly after Marins’ visit. She adds:

Mr. Sebastião was the greatest example of faith and resilience I have known in my life. Unfortunately, his health conditions worsened and he did not survive, leaving us in January 2024. Losing him before getting sponsorship was a painful blow but it became a driving force for the continuity of my photojournalism work on missions. I will turn my lens into a powerful instrument to give voice to the community of Puerto Quijarro, and the respectful MEB missionary and social assistance work that is carried out there. I am hopeful that we will achieve the necessary visibility for significant changes and new outcomes.

See more on Marins’ website. You can lend support through programs like World Food Program or Doctors Without Borders.

All images © Carla Nunes Marins

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