"Belize Victim Speaks on Human Trafficking"
My name is Maria. I spent part of my life on the Island of Ambergris Caye, San Pedro Town, Belize. I was well known in San Pedro as Montana, my street name. I am originally from Mexico. Too bad for me, I was considered a beautiful-looking woman. I didn’t see it. I was taken from Chetumal, the Mexican free zone border area of Northern Belize. The man who took me was known as Junior. Junior’s father was high up in the Belize Immigration department.
I thought I was going to work in a bar as a server. My life in San Pedro started that way. But it ended up with me addicted to crack cocaine and considered an Island whore. All true.
My first week in San Pedro, I thought I had found a promising new life. Working and thinking Junior would take care of me with some feeling of love coming into my head about him. Then it all changed. He wanted me to go on what they called dates with men. I said no.
The beatings started because I did not agree. One night, Junior drugged me and turned men loose on me for the night. I woke with needle marks in my arm, and from that day forward, my life was controlled by the drugs they continued to force feed me.
A reader can say you could have stopped and run away? Understand. The way they forced drugs on me was to place a plastic bag over my head with a small hole to breathe. They blew crack smoke in the hole and closed it. Breathe the crack smoke or die.
If I did not do what I was told, which was have sex with 10 to 15 men every night, Junior would dump me on the street at night and let the animals have me. That’s a term I use for men of the night. Being raped because you are left on the street, well, you just accept the shame and use more drugs.
The stories of women like me are all over the Internet. Hard to understand if you live in a civilized country. Hard to understand why help was not available or why I did not run. Run to who? You are branded a whore and a drug addict.
No money, sometimes no food for days, hiding at night with other girls in the same place in life. Go to the police, no help. No papers. No one cares about us. I was not the only girl in this situation in San Pedro.
The drug desire created my need to return to Junior after hiding. He would be kind to me and for a day or two, life was okay. Then back to the sex trade. Not called prostitution.
Six months passed, living in this dazed state of mind or lack of state of mind. The girls told me about a group that took girls from the Island to a safe place. I asked have you ever heard from the girls again? They said no. To me this sounded like another type of hell.
Then one night my life changed
Junior told me he had a customer that wanted me for the entire night. Be good he told me. This customer is paying a lot of money, so agree with whatever he wants. I’d been through this before, the part about “what ever he wants”. I could tell stories about how men treat women like me. Especially when I am to given them whatever they want.
A man who spoke Spanish met to arrange the deal with Junior and take me to the client. We went into the island night to the south end of the Island of San Pedro. I was scared and stoned, which did not help my state of mind when I had to face what I found at the end of the Island.
A boat was waiting in a hidden cove area with other girls and four men with guns. They explained they could help me and get me out of there. This seemed like an even worse hell than the one I was already in. I ran but didn’t get far. They hunted me down, tied me up and put me on the boat and then it took off with us in it.
We were told not to make trouble and no harm would come to us. Four hours passed and we pulled into an area in southern Belize. Met by another group. A Spanish-speaking woman boarded the boat and sat and explained that we had a choice to be taken from Belize and given aid.
At this point what choice did I have?
We continued through the night and landed in the southern most area of Belize. After leaving the boat we were now being moved in a truck. Still traveling through the night. All I could think was Junior was going to kill me and I needed some crack in the worst way.
Hours passed. Few words spoken. Some girls sleeping. Me tripping bad.
We reached a house in a village and a kind old woman greeted us. In a stern but kind way she said we were safe, yet far from out of trouble. You will need to stay here for at least a month, she said.
A week passed and I was crawling the walls for drugs. Then word came. “The gringo” was coming to the village. I thought I was being sold again and that it would start all over again, but in a different place. He pulled up to the village in a truck. When he got out I realized I had seen him before in San Pedro. He explained that he was the one that organized taking me out of Belize along with the other girls.
He explained that the choices we had. We will take you to your country embassy and arrange travel papers and help you return to your home. You can stay here and work while we make these arrangements. For the drug problems we have a doctor who can help you. Or we will give you money and you can leave on your own.
My choice: stay here.
Today I am clean. No drugs. I work everyday and have gone back to school. Many will say I am a success story if the story is about human trafficking, human rights or whatever name you want to give it. My own story tells me I am branded.
There are no success stories about women like me. My shame is overwhelming to me. The thought of being with a man scares me. How can I have a normal relationship? I was a whore and a drug addict. What kind of man would respect me? I stay afraid that the kind of men that desire me would treat me like Junior did.
The gringo, well, he has helped me understand through the confusion and says I am amazing and that some day a man will care for me the way I deserve to be. I wait for that day only in my dreams.