Francy, 19. © Lena Mucha

Los Primos – Indigenous Transgender Women in Colombia

Lena Mucha

2020 — Colombia

About this series

In the mountains of Colombia’s coffee region, indigenous transgender women, dressed in colorful attire, work the lush green farms. Back home in their communities, they are not accepted. Many are punished or forced to leave their villages. The Emberá, the ethnic group they belong to, are convinced they contracted a contagious disease from the white man. On the coffee farms, they are allowed to be themselves. They work hard and every evening after returning from the fields, they don traditional dresses and jewelry as an expression of their indigenous identity. “I won´t go back to my community. Here I can finally be who I am and live my identity”, says Angelica one of the girls or “primos” (cousins), as they are called in the village.

Yuliana and her colleagues go home to their shelters at the farm after a working day in the coffee plantations. © Lena Mucha
On a Saturday morning the women get in the car that brings them to Santuario, the closest village nearby, where they go shopping and spend their day off. ©Lena Mucha
Francy, 19 and Dario, 25 relax in their free time. The couple belongs to the ethnic group of Emberá Katio. Back home in his village Dario has 4 children with his wife. © Lena Mucha
A group of workers after a day of labour at the plantations, going back to the farm. Together with the indigenous transgender women are also non indigenous workers. © Lena Mucha
Angelica is dressed to go to the village on Saturday morning. Every weekend the women go to the village to do some shopping. They earn aprox. 30 $ a week. It´s the only time they leave the farms. © Lena Mucha
Bernardo brushes his hair. He lives and works at another farm close by but comes frequently to see his friends. © Lena Mucha
Francy, Angelica, and Mariana play cards in their freetime with their colleagues. © Lena Mucha
Francy buys new earings in a shop in Santuario. Every Saturday the women leave the farm to go to the village to buy new materials to make their traditional dresses and jewelry. © Lena Mucha
Angélica, 17: "I felt that I was different when I was 12. I liked to wear dresses and play with girls", she says. At the age of 15 she left her home village and decided to work at the coffee plantations in Risaralda. © Lena Mucha

Photographer: Lena Mucha
Nationality: German
Based in: Berlin – Munich, Germany
Instagram: @lena_mucha

Lena Mucha is a German photographer based between Berlin and Munich. She works frequently with The New York Times and other (inter)national media in Germany, Europe, and across the world.
After graduating with a Master of Social Anthropology and Political Science from the University of Cologne in 2011, she started photography whilst working in Colombia with different NGOs. Her work focuses on stories related to human rights, gender aspects, and social changes within societies and ethnic groups that are mainly under-reported.
She participated in the HEFAT – Hostile Environment and Emergency First Aid Training in Nairobi and the RISC Training in Medellin, Colombia. With support from the IWMF, she she worked on a story about the health impacts of cobalt mining in the DRC. Other stories brought her to Haiti where she covered the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti or a reportage about teenage rebel fighters in Colombia. In Europe, she has worked amongst others on stories related to the far-right movement and was commissioned by the UNDP to photograph a project highlighting African migration all over the continent.
Amongst her clients are National Geographic, GEO, Washington Post, CNN, Wall Street Journal, Der Spiegel,  ZEIT, Doctors without Borders, the ICRC – International Committee of the Red CrossLe Monde, Al Jazeera, the Open Society Foundation, and British Journal of Photography amongst others.