Katia Bowie and her children sheltered for 10 hours in their house for hurricane Iota to pass, hearing how 100-year-old trees rolled down the mountains and streets. The Category-5 hurricane razed the small Colombian island of Providencia on November 16, 2020 to the ground. Providencia had never experienced such terrifying power: the devastating winds destroyed 98% of the island’s infrastructure, swept away the hospital, hotels, schools, offices, and a large part of the vegetation. The island now had a skyline of rubble.

Image: Andrés Romero.

The next morning, Katia crawled out onto the street and saw her clothes and other belongings scattered around. The ceiling and parts of the wall of her home had flown away. Her home, the neighbourhood and “the island” were now memories. Despite the devastating situation, Katia was fortunate her worst fear had not come to pass: her children were safe.

“Nobody was ready to receive the blow of (Hurricane) Iota. Everything was gone. I got lost in the destroyed streets.”

Lota remembered the community of Providencia of their vulnerability. The first days were the hardest; non-stop rain poured through roofs which no longer covered the inhabitants. Outbreaks of pneumonia and dengue soon followed as well as increasing COVID-19 cases, whilst the hospital was down. Katia and her family survived the initial devastation, but she knew the next challenge was to hold and continue.

Image: Andrés Romero.

The family members of Katia were forced to travel to the hospital daily to get the medicine they would normally store in their fridge. The families of the neighbourhood shared a power plant to alleviate electricity problems, prioritizing charging their cell phones and incidentally powering their fans to not perish on the hot sunny days. Katia Bowie too did not give up and believed in a better future for her two children and her community. She created a space that connected the inhabitants of Providencia with the incoming volunteers and other parties involved in reconstruction.

“I raised my voice for a better tomorrow. I wanted to remind my people that they are strong. I know we will enjoy our beaches, cultivate our gardens and go fishing again.”

Katia believes her family and the inhabitants of Providencia can rebuild their paradise better than before. The tall singer and theatre actress quickly became a beacon of hope for her neighbours. Moved by the conviction that everyone contributes to a better future, Katia started singing lyrics of hope in the remains of her patio, giving energy and strength of mind to all of her community.

Image: Andrés Romero.

Katia is one of those people hard to miss and forget. Her strong will gives her a powerful presence that is instantly magnified by her beautiful voice. She has a strong spirit that shines a light on others. A resilient spirit that contributes to the resilience of her community.

The story of Katia Bowie was written by Andrés Romero and edited by Isabel Parra.