Pimpineros is a new project I worked on in the Guajira province in Colombia, a desert region of the country that is inhabited by the Wayuu people. I set out to photograph a week’s worth of travel around the region, including Maicao, Cuestecitas, Manaure, Cabo La Vela, Rio Hacha and Uribia, the capital of the Wayuu territory and a makeshift collection center for gas and other petroleum derivatives smuggled from Venezuela—‘makeshift’ being the operative word. Everything in this place is improvised; a testament to the resourcefulness and resilience of the population in this Mad Max-esque no-man’s-land land between Colombia and Venezuela, where trafficking has historically taken root in many forms; from drugs and humans, to licor and gasoline.
Today, gas stations have become obsolete, driven out of business by the pimpineros—men, women and children who fill up tanks for a living using pimpinas; vessels of any kind (soda bottles, water gallons, etc.) containing smuggled gas transported across the border in cars with modified gas tanks made to accommodate more than the average capacity of regular vehicles. At only $1.50 per tank in Venezuela, and with the local police in on the scheme, pimpineros have taken over trading their labor for not only money but also for food and other necessities.