Spain’s queen observes potable water system’s impact on Colombian community

By Carlos Perez Gil

Cartagena, Colombia, Jun 13 (EFE).- Spain’s queen paid a visit on Tuesday to one of this northern tourist city’s poorest neighborhoods, where she saw first-hand the transformative impact of a new potable water and sewage network financed by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).

Residents of Villa Hermosa, located on the outskirts of Cartagena and reachable via a bumpy, sand road, welcomed Queen Letizia and Colombian first lady Veronica Alcocer on a sweltering day.

After arriving by car, the monarch walked past flimsy wooden houses to the neighborhood school, which is now equipped with male and female bathrooms containing toilets and sinks.

Borja Serrador, head of the AECID project that brought water to that community, explained to the queen the impact of the potable water network, which not only benefits the school but also 6,500 low-income residents of 1,910 homes.

“People hadn’t used a restroom in their lives until this project arrived. They used to relieve themselves in a bag,” Serrador told reporters, adding that “the streets were full of feces.”

Now that people have access to clean water, it no longer needs to be brought in large containers to their homes and people – particularly women and children – can devote more time to working and studying.

“That means a future for this neighborhood. Water changes lives,” said Serrador, who added that lower-cost access to water and improved hygiene are additional advantages.

Thanks to the AECID and the Cartagena municipal government, which have covered the project’s 2-million-euro ($2.16 million) cost, pipes and conduits have been laid under roads and homes have been equipped with sinks, wash basins, showers, toilets and sewage connections.

Queen Letizia visited two of those residences to get a close-up look at the improvements.

One beneficiary, Doris, showed off her new bathtub and sink. “Everything’s improved. It’s given the entire neighborhood hope,” the woman said prior to the Spanish monarch’s arrival.

Heidi also showed her new sink to the cameras and smiled as she turned on the faucet. “It’s completely changed our lives. I hadn’t been able to work full time. Women had been those most affected. It’s wonderful.”

Mercedes, who runs a shop selling bread and sweets, said she was glad to see the queen pay a visit “to the real Cartagena” and see first-hand the extreme poverty that does not appear in that colonial city’s tourist brochures.

Before departing, Letizia sat down and spoke with a group of women and their young children about her visit.

“It was really impressive,” Queen Letizia said of her tour of Villa Hermosa and the fruits of Spanish cooperation. EFE


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