Make Me A Little Miracle

Women and The Venezuelan Crisis

María Lionza, hazme un milagrito
Y un ramo de flores te vo' a llevar
—Ruben Blades

In Venezuela water is rationed. Staple foods are rationed. Electricity comes in fits and starts and the streets vibrate with insecurity and fear. The government stopped collecting such statistics, but independent observers say it has among highest peace-time murder rates in the world. Corruption permeates everything. Food riots broke out this summer as the shortages and lines became untenable. Violent antigovernment demonstrations are common. Medical shortages have left the hospitals haunted, helpless structures for the nations’s sick. Due to the crime, the streets at night are ghostly and vacant. Among the upper and middle classes, every day another friend or family member emigrates, often after another kidnapping or armed robbery. For those without means to escape, they go home earlier, mourn more often, replace what has been stolen when they can, and spend hours and days in line for for food, transportation, and medicine.

Amid the chaos, the country’s women are on the front lines of all aspects of the struggle. Female riot police confront female protesters at the demonstrations. It is women, old ladies, young mothers with babies in arms, who are primarily waiting in Venezuela’s famous lines for food to feed their families. This chapter of my ongoing work in Venezuela is focused on the roll of women in the crisis, emphasizing depth, humanity and resilience in a story far too often told in terms of violence and economic statistics.

  • December 17, 2015. Caracas, Venezuela. A female member of a criminal gang from a barrio in Western Caracas poses for a photo in one of the gang’s safe houses. The gang traffics in kidnapping, drugs and assassinations.

  • June 5, 2016. Boleita, Caracas. After a hostage situation broke out in a jail reputed for inhumane conditions, no water, limited food, overcrowding to the point that some inmates have to sleep standing up and develop skin conditions, wives, sisters, girlfriends and friends staged a protest outside the jail, demanding that their loved ones be given medical treatment after reported shootings inside the jail, or transfers to better facilities. As the protest escalated police fired pepper spray and tear gas at the women to disperse them.

  • March 6th, 2014. Caracas, Venezuela. A National Police officer behind a riot shield is pushed backwards by a crush of demonstrators during the March of the Empty Pots, which coincided with International Women's Day.

  • June 4, 2016. Caracas, Venezuela. After spending the morning in line since three AM waiting for subsidized food and drug store supplies, husband and wife Elixa and Richard returned home to the room their entire family shares in one of the poorest Barrios of Western Caracas, with two packages of subsidized pasta. They sit on the bed and watch tv with their two daughters during the hottest part of the mid day sun, before Elixa cooks a modest lunch of rice with vegetables and Richard goes out to work as a motorcycle taxi driver. Despite Richard's good job with the government and second job as a moto-driver, and Elixa's full time job at a textile store, the family struggles to make enough for food, school supplies, and rent.

Natalie Keyssar is a documentary photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. After receiving a BFA in Painting from the Pratt Institute in 2009, she pursued photojournalism, which fused her love for visual storytelling with her deep interest in youth culture, and political movements.

Much of her personal work has focused on the themes of class inequality, and the personal effects of political turmoil. She has explored topics from Caribbean gangs in Brooklyn, to occupied life in Western Sahara, from White Supremacist militias on the US Border with Mexico, to the Black Lives Matter Movement. From infant mortality in Burma to Hip Hop in Eastern DRC. She is currently working on a long term project about daily life in Venezuela after the death of Hugo Chavez.