Born in an Andean village in Ecuador, Virginia lives with her large family in a small earthen-walled dwelling. In her village of indigenas, it is not uncommon to work in the fields all day, even as a child, or to be called a longa tonta – stupid Indian – by members of the ruling class or mestizos, or Spanish descendants. When seven-year-old Virginia is taken from her village to be a servant to a mestizo couple, she has no idea what the future holds.
In this poignant novel based on a true story, acclaimed author Laura Resau has collaborated with Maria Virginia Farinango to recount one girls’ unforgettable journey to self-discovery. Virginia’s story will speak to anyone who has ever struggled to find his or her place in the world. It will make you laugh and cry, and ultimately, it will fill you with hope.
Seven-year-old, Virginia lives in a small indigenous village in Ecuador with her mother and father; older sister, Matilde, twelve-years-old; Hermalinda, her younger sister; and Manuelito, her younger brother.
Virginia is sent away to work as a servant for the people who own her father’s land. The wife, the “Doctorita”, a dentist and her teacher husband, Nino Carlos have two boys: Jaimito and Andrecito. Doctorita is a harsh and cruel woman often pummelling Virginia with beatings, slaps and punches and degrading her by calling her names.
Virginia finds her new home is in one large room, with a giant wooden wardrobe dividing the living room for the bedroom, but Virginia is forced to sleep on a rug on the floor and she is given one box to put her clothing in.
This isn’t the first time Virginia’s mother has given her away. A couple of years prior, she gave her to an indigenous woman named Marta. Marta wanted a little traveling companion when she sold her wares, so her mother offered Virginia to her. Virginia had her own bed in that house, it was big, beautiful and fluffy and she was allowed to watch television something which she hadn’t seen before and she pealed with laughter at the antics of the cartoon characters. But, it didn’t last, her mother returned the following morning to take her back home. Virginia was disappointed, not only did she have television, a beautiful soft bed, but wonderful tasty food to eat instead of her mother’s every morning potato soup.
Virginia had already realized that the Doctorita and her husband wouldn’t be treating her as well as Marta had so convinced herself that her mother would show up and retrieve her from this new horrid place. She wasn’t even allowed to eat off their dishes and was instead given a gray metal plate, cup, and a dented spoon.
Maria Virginia is told how to do the dishes correctly, right down to the precise numbers of soap drops she is to use; how to make the beds and how many times to fold the sheet back. She is told NOT to ever sit on their bed, not touch the television or stereo except to clean them. She is not to sit on the red chairs or the sofa, she may not open the drawers in the dressers, she is not to let the Doctorita’s son, Jaimito touch anything dirty, she must change his diapers immediately the moment they are wet and she continues laying out rule after rule after rule. Virginia is sure her own Mamita will arrive to get her just like the last time – but Mamita does not come.
Virginia is washing diapers with a washboard but the poop stains won’t all come out of the material no matter how hard she scrubs so she hangs them on the line to dry anyway. The Doctorita comes out screaming at Virginia and begins hitting her in the head her fists just pound her little head. Pain sears through her but the woman continues to punch and slap until Virginia’s head is a ball of aching, screaming fire. The Doctorita tells her to wash the diapers again and if they’re not clean then she will be forced to: “scrub them with your teeth and eat the caca right off of them!”
This is the true story of a 7-year-old indigenous “child” who was forced into slavery in Ecuador. Maria Virginia’s story although heartbreaking, is made utterly compelling in the capable hands of Laura Resau. Virginia, from such a young age was forced to find her own way, educate herself, and learn the ways of the world on her own. Through sheer determination and true grit she emerges into a well-educated woman with many accomplishments under her belt. For a child of seven to have the strength and courage that Maria Virginia did to enable herself to suffer through years of torment and abuse is a testament to her ability to love herself and to want a better life for herself.
The story was extremely well-written and I was hooked from the first page and believe a great deal of adults and teenagers will get a lot out of this story. Very well done!