Inspired by and dedicated to all victims of sex trafficking.

Esperanza used to be such a beautiful girl. She always wore a light pink dress with light pink ribbons, a sharp contrast against the dark hopelessness of the village. The Americans had brought it for her. Maybe someday they would take her away with them. Esperenza loved to tenderly care to a tiny kitten that had found its way into her hut, sick and nearly starved. She nursed it as best as her 5-year-old hands could, saving bits of her small piece of bread for the feline. When it grew stronger, she would rock it gently, humming. She so loved the rare moments her mother could do that for her. One day Esperenza carefully ripped a corner of her sheet to make a little makeshift dress for the kitten, who proudly strutted around the village sporting her new look. Esperanza, the tender-hearted.

Esperenza grew older. At the age of ten she was always running through the village, heedless of the rocks and sticks that cut into her bare feet. She always had a quick smile she would flash before she was off again, chasing a dream, a butterfly, sometimes even just her own whim. The boys challenged her to a race, tired of her constant running. She beat them….so they beat her. A bloody nose her trophy, Esperenza held it high in the air when she passed by them, walking slowly, and they clenched their fists. Oh, the humiliation of being bested by a girl. Once they could no longer see her, she took off running again. Old Mr. Carlos shook his fists together over his head in a celebratory manner when she flew by. No one could catch her. Esperenza, the wind chaser.

Esperenza grew older still. She didn’t run with the wind anymore. At 13, her steps were slowed by the weight of her soul. Her mother was sick and needed medicine they couldn’t afford. Esperenza moved out of the village to the city, to work selling necklaces to tourists…but then there was no more money to make necklaces, and certainly nothing to pay Esperenza. She couldn’t go home, so she began to beg for money on the street corners, sending whatever she received home. A man stopped her one day; was she hungry? Esperenza was. He offered her bread, and she eagerly took it, wolfing it down and wishing immediately for more. She grew confused when he demanded money for the food. Wasn’t it a gift? Oh, no, Esperenza; nothing is free. What was she to give him? She had no money. Esperenza, the innocent.

Esperenza grew up. She was in high demand because of her youth and beauty. Her tattered skirt hanging around her, Esperenza waited for the fifth man of the day, clutching her knees to her chest. She wanted to run again; she wanted someone to hold her, rocking her gently back and forth, wiping away her tears. And so, one day, she soared. He screamed her name; she never turned back. Chasing and fleeing simultaneously, she ran as though she could fly. Esperenza, the strong, graceful bird.

But even the most majestic birds get shot down.

Esperenza used to be such a beautiful girl.