Cano Ciego Island, Costa Rica
By Juan Carlos Ulate
One of the most gratifying moments that photojournalism offers is to meet people who will make an impression on us, regardless of their social or intellectual status, through an example of courage and boldness.
People like Cecilia Villegas, a 77-year old woman who lives on the island of Cano Viejo, some 45 minutes by boat from the Costa Rican city of Puntarenas on the Pacific coast. Cecilia, known to all as “Grandma Chila”, goes out every morning with her weak knees and slanted walk looking for mollusks in the mangrove swamp where she lives.
She then ventures out to sea in her small boat and goes fishing. If she is successful she goes to the market in the port of Puntarenas to sell her catch. Then she wanders the streets for 12 hours or until the tide rises when she can go back home to her Cano Viejo ranch and her animals.
“I make a living out of this. The government doesn’t help me and I never married, so I have to see how to survive.”
Grandma Chila invited me to get to know her a bit and to record her daily life in photographs. I was really struck by her unwavering courage and how she faces all her physical and economical difficulties, without complaints. As she said herself: “ I’ve worked the land and the sea all my life, and as long as I’m strong enough, I will continue to do so.”