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Chapter 3

Maria Withers was born Maria Soto in 1957 to Maximo and Isabel Soto in Apurimac, Peru. Maximo was a farmer and maintained many plots of land by clearing and farming them, as was the practice in the 1950s in rural Peru and remote parts of the Andes. Maximo had a home in Apurimac but also maintained a home and farm, the Martinez Farm in Puerto Maldonado.

Maximo was a hard worker, well-respected, and a good provider of food for the family and the needy in the town. But life in rural Peru is a hard life providing curses and blessings. The curse is that a farmer had to punish their mind and body to survive the hard lonely life of a farmer. Maximo, like most Andean farmers of his generation, chewed coca and drank alcohol especially chicha de jora, and occasionally cheap whisky to numb and energize his body. The blessings were found in the rich and varied soil and climates provided by the Andes.?Maximo would be away from home often months at a time?working plots that were disparate found in mountains or in the valleys. The Andes provides nearly all the climates that can be found around the globe supporting a wide variety of plants. The life of a farmer required working almost every day in high altitudes carrying large loads of food and wood on his back. Maximo was strong, going on long treks alongside his horse that was burdened with supplies for his farmland and to bring the harvest to home and the market.

While Maximo was generous at times, ironically, most people saw Maximo as more than thrifty if not selfish. Maximo provided the best quality and a large quantity of food for his family and town. But Maximo kept the money he earned for buying seeds for his farms and his secret stash of drugs and drink. Moneywise, there was nothing left over for the family.?His wife, Isabel, was responsible for earning her own money for clothes for her and the children. Maria would often stay in Puerto Maldonado in Madre de Dios with her mother to care for their animals. But Puerto Maldonado was and is a mining town. To understand Maria, you must understand the fragility of a girl living in Madre de Dios.

In the 1930s, settlers in the Andes mountains of South America searched the riverbanks for deposits of gold washed down from the mountains. Gold was found within the mountains near the Madre de Dios River, in the rainforest. Peru is a top producer of gold in the world with a large percentage of it mined illegally. Peru is also near the top in youth exploitation. The life of a farmer became less and less popular in favor of easier money found by supporting Gold mining and sacrificing their women and children to the cause.

The remoteness of these areas makes it difficult for the government to regulate youth exploitation and violence against women; local officials just turn a blind eye. Despite the wealth that is extracted, the Madre de Dios area is impoverished, exploitative child labor is prevalent, and the sex industry thrives as it keeps the miner laborers happy. Businessmen attract indigenous children to work in their bars with promised employment and gifts to these girls or their relatives, the pathway into slavery and prostitution. These girls, often extremely young and often related to the relatives sending them, are forced to line up outside bars to cater to the workers? sexual appetites to pay for their keep, protection of their family, and basic survival. Maria?s mother was a Martinez making a living by providing girls to bars in Puerto Maldonado. Maria would have been one of those girls.

Chapter 4
?Almost 1,200 women disappeared in Peru between March 11 and June 30, the Ministry of Women reported. In Brazil, 143 women in 12 states were murdered in March and April ? a 22% increase over the same period in 2019. … In one of the world’s most violent countries [Mexico], women are raped, murdered, and kidnapped with stunning frequency, and the problem is growing.? [USNews]
“In East Asia and the Pacific, women and girls make up 77% of trafficked persons and the most frequently detected form of exploitation among trafficked persons in this region is sexual exploitation, making up 61 percent of detected cases. Only 52 countries worldwide have passed laws on marital rape as of 2015. Intimate partner violence is the most common form of domestic violence. Intimate partner violence includes assault and coercive behavior, such as physical, sexual and psychological attacks by a current or former intimate partner.” []
?… At least one out of three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Domestic violence is a particular type of violence characterized by a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both partners in a relationship. Domestic violence has many forms and can include physical aggression, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and controlling behavior, as well as economic deprivation?. The majority of violence towards women is carried out by intimate partners, such as spouses, fathers, or fathers-in-law. ? – []

Chapter 5

One notable aspect of shamans is they are native doctors who have knowledge of the ancients and create potions to cure people of various ills. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Shamans believe that the world operates under the auspices of spirit-beings that help or hinder human activities and that various land ‘features’ have their own spirits such as lakes, rivers, mountains, springs, etc. A shaman is typically chosen by the spirits, they do not usually choose this calling. The shaman is most often an intuitive or emotionally/spiritually sensitive community leader with various powers to include divination, telepathy, empathicism, and mind-control achieved through trance or other religious rituals. Shamans have the ability to use herbs and objects in nature to heal, provide spiritual and social guidance, communicate with or control spirits in the other world, and escort souls to that other world. Within shaman practice, there are ‘white’ practitioners who are concerned with benevolent spirits, and ‘black’ shamans who deal with wicked spirits or may perform rituals for personal gain. There are black shamans who possess the powers to become or control animals, humans, and spirits.

The powers obtained by a shaman vary by culture but those shamans who are in tune with spirits and nature use powers that don’t exist in their “brand” of shamanism and learn crossover skills. Babaylan is a well-known association of Filipino shamans primarily concerned with the wellness of their community. Filipino shamans communicate, appease, and control spirits of the dead and the spirits of nature.?Shamans, found in the northern Andean highlands of Peru, induced trances using coca leaves and certain types of cacti and mushrooms. Andean communities gather during local celebrations and engage in Tinku or ritual combat, each side led by their shaman. The Andean shamans are known for sacrifices and bloodletting in their temples, most notably the Chavin Temple. The Chav?n people created a series of canals under the temple to provide drainage, especially during the rainy season.?During the rainy season, water rushes through the canals creating a roaring sound like a jaguar, one of their sacred animals. One example of cultural crossover of powers can be seen with ‘Deer Women’, Native American female black shaman who possess the same powers as sirens (Greek) and succubi (Roman Catholic and Jewish) who lure men and spirits into sexual exploits and intercourse.

Chapter 6

Thousands of years ago, a young Greek woman, Medusa, served Athena in the temple and pledged celibacy. She was a kind woman with lovely long golden hair. Medusa was extremely desirable; many men and women chased after her in the hopes of a kiss. Medusa rejected all offers. Poisiden approached Medusa in an attempt to get revenge on Athena. However, Poisiden was seduced by the enchanting Medusa and he attempted to have sex with her. Medusa rejected Poisiden as she had the others. Poisiden was infuriated and raped Medusa in the temple in front of an audience including Athena!? Athena was horrified and despite Medusa’s pleas for forgiveness, Athena cast a spell upon Medusa turning her beautiful hair into snakes and anyone who looked directly at her became stone. She was then banished to a far-off island.

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