The Role of Her Lifetime
Actress and photographer Jimena Hoyos is part of the glamorous international world of film and television. Her real starring role, however, requires her to get up close and personal with the unwashed, neglected, and hungry street dogs she adores. But she’s always loved dogs, especially her baby dog, Zico.
“Zico was the love of my life. When I lost him a few years ago, it was devastating,” Jimena said. It wasn’t until she started taking care of the street dogs in her hometown of Bogotá, Colombia, and the small towns outside of the city, that she started to move past her sadness. It soon became her mission to feed them when she traveled back to Colombia from her home base in Miami, and she started driving around with her car packed full of food and water for the stray dogs wandering around the streets, unfed and thirsty. “It was simply overwhelming and heartbreaking when I saw how many dogs needed help. I soon decided that just giving them lunch once a week wasn’t going to be enough. So I went to work on constructing permanent food and water dispensers to put in central areas where the dogs could come and eat and drink whenever they wanted. After experimenting with 7 different prototypes, I constructed a food dispenser made out of metal that doesn’t rust. It’s based on a chicken feeder and holds 40kg of dog food,” Jimena said.
Jimena said it worked great but there was a cultural learning curve. “Some of the local people threw their garbage in the dispenser or took the food out for their own dogs. And unbelievably, someone once stole the whole thing!” It has taken some time, but she finally has gotten the dogs and the people used to the dispenser. “The dogs were easier to train. I just went up to a dog in street with some dog food in my hand and he proceeded to gossip to the rest of the dogs where to come and eat!” Now, by her estimate, she is feeding at least 52 dogs near her restaurant, Carambola, in Bogotá.
It didn’t take long for 52-plus hungry dogs to empty the food dispenser so Jimena quickly figured out that she needed to find a sustainable way to keep it loaded and those growling tummies filled with kibble while also finding other locations to add more dispensers. She also knew she had to raise awareness to gain help for her new charity organization, Gozques, www.gozques.org, dedicated to helping the dogs but she had a huge dislike for the usual advertising campaigns for animal welfare. “They are morbid and linger on the pain and sadness. I wanted to create awareness by sending a message with a completely different vibe.” Since she had always taken photos while traveling around feeding the dogs, she decided to start selling these photos of the dogs in order to feed them. “My goal when taking photos is capture the moment when the animals show you their magnificence, their love, their soul. It can take a lot of time with some dogs while some dogs start posing like top models.” Divas exist even in the Colombian countryside it seems!
Jimena’s first exhibition was at her restaurant in Bogotá, and it was a huge success. So it wasn’t too long before an “angel” in Miami saw one of her pieces and ordered forty more for another exhibition. However, it’s not about just taking a photo as Jimena also handcrafts a frame for each photo out of recycled materials. The recycled objects convey her vision for each of the dogs that she has captured with her camera and the frames turn the mounted photographs into a one-of-a-kind, evocative, works of art. The Miami show ended up also being wildly popular and Jimena received offers for exhibitions around the world. But putting so much of her passion for the dogs into each piece takes time and energy and she has only agreed so far to a few more showings this year in Miami, New York and Austria. Plan your vacation around a Jimena Hoyos/Gozques exhibition and put those tourist dollars to good use!
Brave New World
Jimena admits that though she started off to help the dogs, the dogs really ended up helping her. “The response to my photographs has been so incredible that it’s taken my life in a totally new direction. To think that the dogs that people walked on top of every day in the street like trash, never seeing the suffering, are now given a place of honor on a gallery wall, makes me cry.” Recently, she also began working with a Colombian charity organization on a project to build a sanctuary for the dogs along with programs for spay/neuter and to train the dogs as service dogs. The future seems to be bright and sunny for this beauty whose heart is as big as her talent and the dogs she helps.
Thank you, Jimena, for your vision and your hard work for these deserving dogs. We look forward to seeing more of your work in art galleries, movie theaters, and of course, in the eyes of your biggest fans, the street dogs of Colombia.
To make a donation: http://gozques.org/donations/
Jimena’s restaurant in Bogotá: http://carambolatango.com