The Color of Hunger

September 24, 2016

     The porous 2,219 km land border between Colombia and Venezuela was closed in August of 2015, by order of the Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, as part of a campaign against smuggling and alleged paramilitaries operating in the area.  Since then, hundreds of Colombian citizens living on the Venezuelan side of the border have been expelled and several thousand returned on their own with fear of deportation.

     On Wednesday, September 14,  hundreds of women, dressed in white crossed the Venezuelan border with Colombia in search for food and other basic essentials. Despite the official closure of border crossings, the movement of people and goods continues on a smaller scale by illegal steps, and according to authorities, in recent weeks there have been other cases similar to today in some of these irregular points.

     But Wednesday’s crossing by the hundreds of women was nothing short of symbolic. White represents peace.  Historically, the dressing of white by women who want to protest peacefully dates as far back as 411 BC, when Aristophanes’ classical play, Lysistrata, was first staged.  Lysistrata tells the story one woman who successfully brought together Athenian and Spartan women to peacefully protest the Peloponnesian war[1].  Although Lysistrata was written as a comedy, the wearing of white by women to reach peace was to be seen again – this time in real, modern times. In 2003, the women in Liberia wore white t-shirts as they successfully protested to end the second civil war[2].  In that same year, Cuban wives and other female relatives of human rights defenders and journalists, jailed by the Cuban government, wore white to attend Mass on Sundays to demonstrate opposition to the incarcerations.

     Venezuelan women are trying to save their families.  Some news outlets report that the elderly in Venezuela are dying of starvation.  During the above cited border crossing, women chanted that their children are hungry.  All the while, the focus of the conversations seems to be on border security – not of scarcity of resources.  Despite these women’s efforts to use a symbolic movement as a way to make a statement, the call may very well fall onto deaf ears.  After all, Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, plans to travel to Cucuta to address various border issues with local authorities.   




[1] SparkNotes Editors. (n.d.). SparkNote on Lysistrata. Retrieved January 6, 2017, from

[2] Disney, A. E., & Reticker, G. (2008). Pray the devil back to hell. [Sausalito, CA?]: Distributed by Roco Films Educational.

About Author(s)

marisapr's picture
Marisa is a third-year law student at the University of Pittsburgh. She is pursuing certificates in Health Law and in Latin American Studies. She is interested in gender and race issues and how they affect immigration and immigrant communities. She also does research in public health issues. She has been contributing with articles for Panoramas since 2015.