Thursday, August 6, 2009

Meet Edith

Edith Ramirez dips a blade of grass into yellow paint and squiggles feathers on an owl carved out of balsa wood. Edith specializes in painting earrings because she likes "all the little things in life," she says.

Before Edith joined the Kolping artisan association at Jenaro Herrera, she lived according to a timeline of big things, not little.

At age 17, Edith decided to become a nun. She joined a monastery in Lima, but then quit four years later. "There were too many rules," Edith says.

Edith moved to Pucallpa (a jungle city notorious for crime and drug trafficking), got a boyfriend, and worked in a book store. During the workday, she lost herself in mystery and romance novels. "But of course, the Bible was still my favorite book," Edith says. "It tells you everything."

At the time, Edith did not know that her boyfriend, Arturo Pizarro, was a leader of Sendero Luminoso, a Peruvian terrorist organization.

One evening, Edith was walking home from the bookstore when two men on motorcycles pulled up alongside her. They threatened to kill Edith if she did not come with them. The men locked Edith in a dark room for three days without food or drink.

When they released her, the men said, "You can go, because your lover gave us what we wanted."

That was 14 years ago. Edith never saw her boyfriend again. She assumes that he is dead.

Afraid that her life was still in danger, Edith fled to Jenaro Herrera, her hometown. She made a living by painting toucans and selling them to tourists.

"When I paint, I relax," Edith says.

Edith is determined to not die "just an artisan."

Edith´s dream is to build a pharmacy in Jenaro Herrera. According to Edith, the government clinic lacks basic medicine. In the last two years, three people have died of snake bites because the clinic did not have anti-venom in stock.

"I will give them anti-venom. It´s that simple," Edith says.

Edith hangs the owl earrings to dry in the sun on a clothesline, along with 10 other owls.

She sells the earrings for four soles per pair. The license for her dream pharmacy costs 3000 soles. "That's 750 pairs of earrings. 1,500 owls, snakes and toucans," Edith calculates. "Not bad."

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