(AFP) – For decades, women like Rosalba Canon were banned from Colombia’s emerald mines: men said they brought bad luck.
Canon and others like her have spent their lives as “guaqueras,” or fortune hunters, sifting stray gems from the shale gouged from rock and spewed out as waste from the mines in the lush mountains of northern Colombia.
“The idea of getting an emerald brought me here and I’ve stayed in the hope that the Baby Jesus will put one on my shovel,” said the 63-year-old Canon, her face chiseled by the sun.
Canon arrived at the end of the 1970s in the Andean town of Muzo, known as the emerald capital of the world.
The women who came here, some running from violent relationships, could not work in the tunnels alongside the men because of the macho prejudice that they brought bad luck. The country’s laws additionally prevented women from going down the mines.