Días Eternos

Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen

2017 - Ongoing


In 2017 Ana María Arévalo Gosen undertook a reckless project. She photographed women in pre-trial detention centers in Venezuela. They are prison establishments anchored in the first decades of the 20th century, when people were imprisoned in inhumane conditions.

Anyone who thinks that this happened a hundred years ago makes a mistake. The images she took with a 28 mm lenses a her Leica Q in preventative detention centers located in several cities in Venezuela: Caracas, Valencia, Naguanagua, Guarenas, Mérida, Maracaibo and Guatire, document the scandalous violation of the human rights of these inmates. The Venezuelan prison system goes beyond the threshold of what is considered not acceptable in societies where democracy works: deaths due to malnutrition, infectious diseases and riots, severe overcrowding, extreme precariousness of sanitary facilities (irregular running water service), non-existence of dining rooms (supplies are provided by family members), lack of medical assistance, absence of sports activities and idle time occupation, mafias that sell drugs, arms, extort and kill. In this context of deprivation, in detention centers detainees are in a very vulnerable situation.

Until a judge decides to transfer to a prison awaiting trial or their release, their stay in these centers should not be prolonged more than 45 days, but by the desperate judicial process delay the time extended for months and years, are eternal.

The harshness of the living conditions in Venezuelan prisons and pre-trial detention centers have been denounced by non-governmental organizations “A Window to Freedom” and the “Observatory of Prisons”. Four years ago, Human Rights Watch warned that they were among the most violent in Latin America.

In the twentieth century, documentary photography demonstrated the capacity of images to show contradictory facts of society. Mrs. Arévalo Gosen leaves through her camera a testimony of the injustices that disturb her. That is why, when her work was recognized by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Travel Grant and the Women Photograph + Nikon Grant in 2018, she found a way to make visible the misfortunes of Venezuelan women detained in preventive centers.

In her work, there are photographs prisoners lying and sitting on mats. They do not pose for the camera, so they spend their time in a deranged inactivity. She catches a woman who uses a bucket of water and half-naked inmates queuing to shower in a makeshift bathroom. She takes captures of legs and arms intertwined, of bodies with scars left on the skin when self-inflicted physical damage. Of pregnant inmates who do not know exactly in what month they are and do not receive prenatal care. There are photos of faces of intense sadness, of bewildered looks, of afflicted gestures. She focuses on walls with drawings of hearts as a substitute for noble sentiments and portrays backpacks hanging along the perimeter of the prison that seem to warn that their owners are passing through.

She spends days in the cells with the detainees. They talk for long times. They tell her their experiences, she recounts her too. A deal of trust is established: then, only then, she puts her camera to work.

They are women of modest origin. Their biographies have been marked by family abandonment, sexual abuse, violent treatment. Although they have known love, the life of narrowness has not granted them a moment of truce. They are accused of drug smuggling, theft, illicit carrying of arms, kidnapping of persons, association to commit a crime, corruption of minors, infanticide, terrorism, looting of private property. Having a second chance in their lives is a recurring idea that almost everyone has in mind.

These photos urge to denounce that the government authorities do not comply with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution that determines that Venezuela is constituted as a democratic and social State of law and justice, which places preeminent respect for human rights.

Faced with this dreadful prison reality, a mandatory task of public debate and political action in Venezuela, as well as in Latin American countries, is to contribute to the urgent establishment of penitentiary institutions that do not violate the human rights of detainees and women's rights. be women It is a way to preserve a human uniqueness: the ability to feel empathy, solidarity and understanding for the other.

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  • POLI-VALENCIA, CARABOBO - February 2017.
    Eight-month-pregnant Jakelin Rivero, 21 years old, charged with robbery, waits to have a bath with buckets of water that other prisoners have brought for them at an improvised outdoor toilet made from a cardboard by the police. About a hundred detainees use the same toilet bowl and shower in the same place.

    Detained female who is into her four month of pregnancy is serving her sentence for infanticide. The father of this child committed suicide. In a state prison, other inmates punish this type of crime, which is the reason why she has not been transferred.

  • LA YAGUARA CENTER OF DETENTION. - March 2018. Sarait Rivas, 20 years old. She has been inside this detention center waiting for trail for 45 days, she has not met her lawyer. Accused of terrorism and corruption of minors. She was detained along with a group of people when a liquor store in a slum in Caracas was sacked. She is the mother of two children.

    Hainni, 17 years old, is accused of homicide. She also goes by the name of “38”, which is the caliber of the gun that is tattooed on her leg.

  • LA YAGUARA CENTER OF DETENTION. - March 2018. Beauty has always been important in Venezuelan culture. Inside the centers of preventive detention, women take care of their looks even if they do not have mirrors or visitors.

  • POLI-NAGUANAGUA, CARABOBO. - March 2018. Make-up, hair irons or extensions are some of the benefits these women receive from the police department. Also cellphones that they continuously used as a distraction.

    Yusbelis Bustamante, a 23 years old woman accused of robbery, cries while she shows her eye wound from a fight with another inmate, a minor of 17 years old. Yusbelis is 4 months pregnant. In the 1st month and 3 weeks of detention she has not received any medical check-ups. Her family is from Ocumare, a region in Miranda about one hour drive away from La Yaguara, which means she rarely receives visitation or food. She has two other children, a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old. The father of the children is in Apure, a city five hour drive away from Caracas.

    Maria (on the left) kisses her daughter on visitation hours. She is 35 years old and is charged with robbery. She goes to therapy three times a week. While the beginning of the trials keep on being delayed, the condition of these women inside this precinct in the center of Valencia, a city on north-center of the country, has improved slightly between 2017 and 2018. They are now permitted to have a cellphone, hairdressing utensils and a 3hour recreation time outside their cell. Conjugal visitations are not allowed to female detainees, although one of them got pregnant while being inside the center with another male detainee; they had intercourse in the reception office.

  • POLI-VALENCIA, CARABOBO - January 2017.

    A transgender woman shows her wounds and scars through the bars of her cell. She is being held prisoner like a man, which means that she has to wait for her preliminary trial with male prisoners who often abuse her.

  • LA YAGUARA CENTER OF DETENTION, CARACAS. - March 2018. Because of the overcrowding,
    these women live under unhygienic conditions. Due to the lack of water or facilities to go to the toilet, they use a bucket as a toilet bowl.

    A woman inside a “closed” prison in Maracaibo - a border city between Venezuela and Colombia - helps arrange the net to play volleyball. Their schedules include playing sports along with receiving classes, motivational and disciplinary workshops and arts and crafts. The purpose of these centers is to reform women and avoid relapse. They get redemptions if they behave properly to get their sentence reduced.

  • POLI-ZAMORA, GUATIRE. - December 2018. Children of the imprinoated population in this detention center wait to enter to the backyard, where an evangelist theater piece was going to take place.

  • LA YAGUARA CENTER OF DETENTION . - January 2017. A pregnant women eats a lollypop.

  • LA YAGUARA CENTER OF DETENTION, CARACAS - November 2018. A man paints the walls of the prison cell of 7 women. It is the room where the other prisoners receive their conjugal visitations, the water tank for the other 270 prisoners also occupies a quarter of the space of their cell. The women say that at least they get some indirect natural sun light that comes in from their door.

  • EL VALLE, CARACAS. - March 2018. Women pray in “Chinatown”, a center of detention in El Valle, Caracas. It is the center of detention that holds most of the detainees in the metropolitan area.


    A group of female detainees warms up in the Ana Maria Campos II State prison before doing sports. They are being guarded by a custodian inside a “closed” prison - or a center of feminine formation, how the ministry of the popular power for the prison service calls it -.

    Only the already judged female detainees can go to this kind of prison. These facilities are not overcrowded, they have food, water and medical attention. They receive classes, do sports and cook. These women are not allowed to make or receive phone calls. Visitation days are allowed once a month

  • EL VALLE, CARACAS. - January 2017.
    “Chinatown” is the preventive center of detention, which guards most women
    in the metropolitan area of Venezuela. A total of 60 women, including a pregnant inmate in her 1st month, are waiting for their trials inside this precinct.

  • POLI-VALENCIA, CARABOBO. - March 2018.
    A group of female detainees lay down in their prison cell. This cell was the former investigation office of the local police, they had to close it down and transformed it into a prison cell bacause the female detainees were mixed with the male detainees.
    “Eternal days” is the description that one of the already judged female prisoners uses to refer to the time of serving her sentence inside this center instead of a state prison. Most of these women have children outside the prison that do not visit them. Daniela (center, with a pink shirt) is serving a 4-year sentence for robbery while her daughter has leukemia.

  • POLI-VALENCIA, CARABOBO - March 2017. Female and male prisoners shared this cell before the police department closed their investigation office and transformed it into a female only cell.

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