The “Curaca” Etapoy was one of the most brave and fierce native of all the tribes that populate the tributaries of the Tambopata river. His lack of trust and jealousy towards civilized people not withstanding, he once dared to visit us at the Mission house of San Jacinto in the city of Puerto Maldonado. Since that visit, we have been able to cement a long-lasting and friendly relationship.
One day, the veteran “curaca” was gravely ill, and after seeing that all of his selvatic pharmacology was insufficient to cure himself, he resolved to ask to be taken to the Mission. Poor soul! we felt sorry to contemplate his state! Carried on his woman’s shoulders, tied to a heavy tree branch, he arrived at our house accompanied by some other members of the tribe, among whom was a girl of about twelve years of age with a meek glance, partially disfigured from her misery.
The natives spent several days with us, always being attended to and welcomed with love and compassion, while we did what was within our reach to cure Etapoy as quickly as possible. In those days, torrential rains came over us and enormous flooding transformed the city into a great lake, and alarmed at the possible danger that their own small home in the forest would come under, they no longer wanted to remain with us and they left.
In the dreary river bed of the Bahuaja (Tambopata) river, the impetuousness of the river waters made it impossible for them to further advance. They were forced to stop and ask for shelter at the house of a “chacarero” (farmer); who upon seeing them arrive, laid his eyes on a poor and defenseless little girl. He began to desire her for his own personal service. He put into play all sorts of maligned tricks: adulations, lies, false promises, all to hide his barbaric intentions. Finally he was able to convince the clueless “curaca” to turn over the poor native girl.
Several days passed by; the natives continued their voyage towards the forests of the Ojakuayasiji (Chuncho) River, leaving behind the girl imprisoned and abated by her immense affliction, vocalized by her incessant crying. These increased daily with the immoral and inhumane treatment she received. No capable of sustaining this genre of life, she took advantage one day of a distraction and empowered by her affliction, she fled into the forest swimming across vast lagoons where she left behind her chilled and shaking limbs. No longer capable of holding on to her strength, she had no choice but to surrender to the forest, and returned to the house of the one who had so villanously bought her freedom.
In the midst of her cruel abandonment and great affliction, a ray of light shines in her memory: the Mission house. She flees once more through the forests and muddy swamps, across flooded terrain, where her cruel oppressors chase her and follow her every step as if they were chasing a fiery beast. Upon crossing a dense jungle thicket, they lost sight of her forever. Satisfied and joyful at her escape, she arrived at the Mission house around one in the afternoon. What happened to you? Where are the others? What happened to you? How did you get here alone?, etc. etc. Those were the questions I asked her, alarmed at her arrival. To each of these she answered with such clarity, adding at the end that she wished to remain and stay at the Mission. What a blessing from God!
With the expected speed and happiness, right away I went to tell the story to the Missionary Mothers. Poor “chunchita”! “Bring her to us!” they told me, and in a short while I arrived proudly showing off our school girl in the waiting hall. Stimulated by an irresistible curiosity, the girls come forth to see her, joyfully and compassionately. Sister Aurora was the first to embrace her and wrap her in affection, while all the girls felt a shared sympathy and compassion for her. Poor “salvajita”! She had crossed the jungle all alone to find refuge in the Mission. Seeing the loving reception she received, I asked her: Do you want to stay here with my sisters? YES, she answers joyfully, and I thanking the Lord, returned to the Mission.
After a year, the native girl has shown great examples of character, humility, tenderness, hard work, and applied in her tasks, thus deserving of the others’ affection. At the beginning, when I would leave to say Mass she would see me and ask to come along with me. The good missionary sisters would be obligated to follow along with her part of the way, letting her walk and talk in her native tongue, while I could take the time to initiate her in the mysteries of the faith. Here was where she would ask questions and also ask for favors: that when I would go to visit other natives, I take her, and also bring meat, knives, sewing needles, thread, etc. (Escritos I, 12. 1-8; pp. 137-140)