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Maria Reiche

February 2000

In a letter to her mother, a young Maria Reiche tried to calm her mother's fears about her future: "Dear mother, you wrote to me about the great expectations you have about my future. Compared to those expectations. I'm a failure, and the world has the right to expect more from me than I actually deliver. But you are right, one should find oneself first before trying to be something in this world. I am only just beginning to discover what I really want to do.

I don't understand in what way what is going on inside of me will takes shape externally. It's possible that will live for a few years more in complete anonymity until destiny considers me worthy of taking over the task that it has assigned me, the task for which I was born ... I believe it involves a specific task for which I am unconsciously ready, preparing myself and learning."

Maria wasn't wrong. Destiny had laid out an impossible task that only her steel will could pull off: to let the world know about the enigmatic lines that the Nazca culture had carved into the desert, and at the same time, protect them.

Maria left her native Dresden bound for Peru to work as a nanny for the German Consul in Cusco in 1934, when she was 31. She parted from the tranquil town of Dresden, a pretty German city by the Elba River to head off with US archaeologist Paul Kosok to discover one of the world's greatest mysteries in the arid sands of the Nazca desert.

Since then, Maria understood that this was her destiny in life, and never again left those remote desert wastelands. Patient, disciplined and meticulous, she swept the sands away until she had uncovered 10,000 lines, 60 figures of animals and humans, and 40 geometric shapes of triangles and trapezoids.

Two years ago, at the age of 95, after spending a lifetime studying and caring for the lines, she passed away. Without a doubt, Maria was true to the promise that she made to her mother.

Peru, and above all Nazca, will never forget her.


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