Drums and marimba music played in the streets as the Colombian town of Barbacoas erupted into celebration.
After 18 years, the rutted and impassable road linking the town with the outside world was finally under repair. And, more to the point, after 110 long and loveless nights, Barbacoas’s women as of last week were calling off the sex strike that got the bulldozers rolling.
The strike, called Crossed Legs, was born out of desperation, says strike leader Maribel Silva, a local judge.
The 200 kilometers of muddy jungle road linking equatorial Barbacoas with its regional capital, Pasto, are in catastrophic condition.
The drive can take 20 hours. Sick people have died trying to reach the hospital.
Transport costs in this south-western region of Colombia have driven the price of food to ten times what it is in the capital.
“We had to find a peaceful form of protest, something different from what you always experience in Colombia,” Silva told dpa.
One evening, Silva got together with fellow judges from the local family court for a glass of wine and a few chontaduros, an aphrodisiac palm fruit. Conversation turned to the sorry state of the road, and a colleague urged Silva to start a sex strike.
At first, she refused — the sacrifice was too much. But when she rose to the challenge, 30 women joined her, then 100, then 300.
..Until more than 600 women — and a few men — committed to the movement, swapping action in bed for action on the road.
“We had to be like winged angels, who wouldn’t touch anyone and couldn’t be touched by anyone either,” said Silva.
Barbacoas’s men, however, were at first less than passionate about the plan.
“Afro-Colombian men are known for being hot-blooded. That their women were going to refuse sex was unthinkable. Almost an insult,” said Silva.
But the women didn’t bend, and as the strike gained notice from national and then international media, even the men offered their support.
Silva made the trip 8km out into the jungle with a few other residents last week to watch governor Antonio Navarro Wolff inaugurate work on the road.
On her way back, her bus hit an enormous pothole. Again.
“Once again, we had to slog home in mud up to our hips. We didn’t get there until the next morning,” she recalled.
But when they arrived home with the good news, they got an unexpected reception. “The men asked us why we wanted to end the strike, and didn’t we want to keep going until the road was finished,” said Silva. The day after, the men made the trip to the construction site themselves, just to be sure.
For now, Barbacoas’s nights are lively once again. But the town is watching closely to keep the roadworks honest.
Money has been earmarked for the paving five times before, only to disappear without a trace to corruption.
The 40 billion pesos (about 20 million dollars) allocated in the budget will pay for only 25 of 57 critical kilometers. In the 18 months of the first phase of the project, the state will have to come up with the missing 60 billion pesos.
If it doesn’t, Barbacoas’s men are threatening to join the strike.