I closed my eyes and tried to enter his world. I walked locating myself by sounds and smells, but I couldn't help but be a seer among them. How does the dark feel, not seeing the world? How does this new world feel, if you don't see the people with chinstraps, the empty streets, the closed stalls?
Those were some of the questions I asked myself that morning at the end of March of this year before entering the Alfredo Tarifa Sánchez house, an old tenement that houses 17 families, all with one or more members who cannot see.
It was the second week of rigid quarantine in Bolivia, because on March 11 the first two cases of the Covid-19 virus pandemic were confirmed. The total confinement stopped all activities in the country, both formal and informal.
The thousands of families who worked on the streets in informal commerce were affected by the economic consequences of stopping everything. For this reason, many found themselves at a crossroads: protecting their lives from the presence of the virus or dying of hunger because they did not work on the streets.
That was the big question in a country where informal trade generates profits for a good percentage of its population. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), more than 60% of the economically active population worked informally until last year. But, after the pandemic, informality would reach up to 80% of Bolivians, due to layoffs and business closures, according to projections from the Center for Studies for Labor and Agrarian Development (Cedla).
A part of the street workers in the city of La Paz is made up of blind people. A group of these lives in the Alfredo Tarifa Sánchez house, located in the north, very close to the center, where they carry out their activities.
Before the pandemic, his life was spent in the different streets of La Paz. They offered songs or sweets on the corners. Some of the blind even came to the General Cemetery, in the popular Max Paredes area, to offer prayers to the mourners who buried their dead. This is how they supported their families.
But the initial rigid quarantine forced them to change their routine. Suddenly, their world that was translated into the sounds of cars and people was changed by the confinement of their homes, which measure four by four meters.
The house has 17 main rooms. Each of these makes, at the same time, a room, a living room and a kitchen. In the whole house there is only one bathroom and one shower for the 35 inhabitants.
In that place, blind people lived through a period of anguish and uncertainty during almost three months of total confinement. During that time the silence and the frightened voices of those who can see showed them the changes that the city of La Paz experienced.
These are some of the photographs that I took during that time that I accompanied this community. The second part of this project will show the life of the blind singers who return to the streets and their activities.