She’s no more than fourteen years old and she’s nothing but a mere statistic in the cold numbers game of human trafficking. Her deer-like eyes batter like she’s been caught in the headlights of a slowmotion nightmare.
The girl doesn’t want to give up her real name to the two western journalists, only presenting herself with the bogus alias assigned to her by her “camp-dad”, or maybe by the house madam of the wooden-shack brothel located further down the muddy meanstreet.
She goes by the stage name of Rosario.
The journalists stand out like two soar thumbs with their flair of western civilization amid the wary citizens of a gold rush boomtown haphazardly erected in the heartland of the Peruvian Amazon.
The town is one of makeshift ramshackles, wooden huts set-up in a haste, remodeled containers functioning as grocery stores or, more commonly, as thriving liquor stores. It’s located at the edge of a dug-out sand pit; an anomaly surrounded by thick jungle greenery.
The area is called Madre De Dios, and the paradox of the name would almost be funny if it wasn’t for the ramifications the true nature of life on God’s Mother’s land had on its inhabitants.
No news is good news in these parts, especially since the Peruvian government started to grumble about illegal gold mining camps dotting up like a string of jungle-gutted pearls, as more and more people are tuning in to the grapevine of striking rich. The look and feel of the temporary settlements would take anyone down memory lane to the era of the wild, wild west, but out here, it’s a dish delivered stripped of all romance.
Lawless territory, that’s how one of the journalist’s later on describes it as. Klondyke in the Amazon. Human trafficking is the most brutal expression of market mechanisms, but it’s still a logical one, at the breaking point where humanity exposes its jugular to cut-throat capitalism, with abuse and modern day slavery in its aftermath. There are no winners here, just a cannibalistic feeding frenzy among the most desperate rungs of society.
The fourteen year old girl speaks nothing of her predicament to the journalists, well aware of the watchful eyes from camp inhabitants, that couldn’t be more hostile had they been branded on her flesh. And as she turns her back to the visitors, they proceed to cover the story they’re there for: the unregulated destruction of the green lung of the Amazon, as gold miners use excavation methods leaving rivers and the once upon a time fertile soil saturated with untreated mercury.
In this Deadwood-type of town, the girl known as Rosario walks away with her madam to clock in for the nighshift. What’s her story then? Has she been kidnapped here, like so many other victims of human trafficking, put to work serving a regular stream of repeat clients, but not seeing any money as she’s still paying off the debt owed to her benefactors for providing her with this opportunity.
If she has any hope left, it has to be to one day earn her real name back.
There’s a million ways to make a contribution. Choose one.
Juha Nilsson, for USA Pink.