The Beautiful Struggle: Maria Equis

Image courtesy of User Wokandapix /

John Cañamar, Editor

EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the graphic nature of the story, viewer discretion is advised. This story describes sexual violence and abuse. Maria’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

“I woke up to my mom grabbing me and telling me in a whisper to get my shoes and my jacket that we were leaving.”

“It was three or four in the morning and raining like I had never seen it in my 13 years of life. My dad was lying face down in a puddle with blood coming from the soccer ball size hole in his back,” recalled Maria Equis about the last day of her childhood.

Maria was born in a small town in the jungles of the most southern part of Mexico, to a family whose social class was below poverty. She was born to the uncounted, the indigene’s tribes of the Yucatan.

“That was the last time I felt that I was loved and belonged in this world.”

Hours after Maria’s mother awoke her, they were on a train that they hoped, leaving the jungle and her life. By daybreak, they were headed north although they did not know where they were going or how far.

Maria’s mother had just escaped with their lives and was running to keep her daughter safe from the men who killed her father, grandfather, grandmother and two brothers. Those men were from a Guerilla Army that was clearing the jungle for land developers for a price.

After being on a train for five days Maria and her mother were in a place that had a strange white powder on the ground, and it was colder than she had ever felt.

They had arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah in the winter of 1995.

That night they slept under a bridge, and her mother passed away before morning. Maria found herself in a strange land where she knew no one, did not know the language, with only herself and the blouse and skirt that she had been wearing for the past week.

She does not recall how long it had been before she woke up in the home of the couple who saved her life. After being in this home for roughly six months, the family went on a trip to Seattle where they left her with a new family.

This is when Maria says that her nightmare began. “I was sick to my stomach and was bleeding. I had no idea what was happening to me so I told the lady what was happening as best I could.” She had not learned enough English to communicate at this point.

She had had her first menstrual cycle. The man was overjoyed with the news. That same night he took her to a meeting where there were many men. She recalls seven of them took turns raping her until she just “went away.”

Everything after that night, Maria says, “Is a slow-motion horror movie playing on a loop in my mind.”

Maria endured four more years of being used as a “Party Toy” for men at their social club events until she was too old for them to find her attractive any longer.

At the old age of 17, her “Slave-Father” sold her to a woman in Albuquerque, New Mexico who owned a bar. The bar owner introduced her to heroin which Maria took, to escape not only the physical torture she had been living but the demons within her mind.

Heroin was the way the bar owner kept Maria under control and turning tricks in the broom closet size room in the back of the bar.

Maria recalls the bar owner teaching her how to shoot up the heroin under her toenails so that the johns would not see track marks and not realize that she was a dope fiend.

“The worst thing of all was when I was at the point that I did not even want to die anymore, I wanted the next john to walk in so I could pleasure him, and then go collect my hit. The only thing that I loved in the entire universe were those four to five minutes of high I would get after pushing that warm liquid into my system, and just that fast I would be back in the front of the bar looking for my next fix.”

“My owner loved me, because I brought money in all day long, sometimes four or five days straight without sleeping. My candy was more important than food, sleep, anything for that matter.”

“In 2003 I traveled to San Diego, willing, with my owner and her man to work the Super Bowl. They took me to a salon where they fixed my hair, nails and even put makeup on me. It was the first time that I can recall truly looking into a mirror since leaving my home in the jungle.”

Maria expressed that she felt important that her owner would spend money on her, little did she know that they were just fixing her up to be auctioned off to a celebrity madam.

Maria was sold to a madam who took her all over the country going from event to event where she would service high dollar clients.

Maria was shocked when her madam gave her money. It was the first time she ever held American currency, she was never paid by any of the men at the bars and never even “rewarded with heroin” at the social clubs.

“It was not until late 2003, that I knew I could just leave if I wished. It never occurred to me to ever try to run away. In 2004, I found myself in a sex raid in Houston where the officers and a counselor asked me my name. No one had ever asked me that question; it made me break down and cry because I heard my Dad’s voice in my head saying my name.”

“That night I was taken to a hotel room where I was not asked to perform any acts of any kind. The counselor interviewed me the following morning where I told her my entire story. With the help of the counselor, I was not charged with any crime and was put into a drug program.”

Maria spent six months in a drug rehab hospital where she broke the grasp of her heroin addiction.

Fast forward 13 years and Maria now works with groups that go around to bars and spas trying to help ladies who are in the web of human sex trafficking and shutting down the business establishments that have these women and girls as slaves.

In Maria’s 12 years as an advocate, she has encouraged eight women to testify against their owners and has helped in over 200 police sex raids. Over 1,800 women and young girls were rescued in these raids.


To learn more about human trafficking, check out Elijah Rising and Free the Captives.