A beautiful story


In 2008, Robin Utrecht was sent to Peru by World Portraits to create a series of the local people in Lima. One of the pictures was sold and used for an international campaign. The only problem was, the woman on the picture, Mariela Valera Huanca, was not to be found, her known address was apparently insufficient, and she was entitled to 2000 us dollars!


So the search started. Via Walter Oostelbos of Foreign affairs, World Portraits was introduced to the Dutch Ambassador in Lima mr. Arjan Hamburger. They were able to get her additional address information. World Portraits also contacted editor in chief of Metro Holland Robert van Brandwijk, who was so caught up with this story, he immediately notified his colleagues in Lima and asked them for help.


San Juan de Lurigancho is one of the poorest ditricts of Lima, the capital of Peru. Survival in the slums is harsh. Mariela Valera Huanca lives in the area called Nogales, together with her husband Juan Chura, a tailor and her two sons, 11 years old Lady and 6 years old Roy. To support her family, Mariela sold corn cakes in the centre of Lima. Most of the times she would take her children along, because there was no one else to watch over them. She carried her son Roy on her back, in a typical Peruvian colourful sling. One day she met the Dutch top photographer Robin Utrecht, who asked her if he could take her picture for World Portraits. After signing the model release contract, he promised her 20% of the profit, the moment her picture would be sold.


Via Metro Peru, two Peruvian journalist of the Peruvian Metro went on the search. They used the basic information given by the Dutch embassy and found an address of Gilmer Valera Huanca, who ended up to be Mariela’s brother . Getting to this address from the centre of Lima takes at least one and a half hour, on a Sunday with no traffic. In this district taxi drivers nor policemen could tell the journalist where this small village Nogales exactly was, but finally there was one taxi driver, who could bring the men nearby the right address. They had to walk the last bit, but finally arrived in the village. When they asked a local grocer if he knew Gilmer Valera Huanca, the lady who was buying some vegetables responded that Gilmer was her cousin. The journalist explained the story and the aunt recognized the little boy from the picture as her cousin Roy.


In the middle of nowhere, only to be reached by foot, there were a few wooden houses, with a small wooden sign saying Los Nogales. Mariela stepped outside with her son Roy. She could not believe her ears when the journalist told her the whole story and that she was entitled to 2000 us dollars. She was so happy:
‘’ I just lost my income, because we are not allowed to work as vendors on the major square in the centre of Lima anymore , so this money is like a gift from god!’’

And this is exactly what World Portraits is aiming for. To make sure that every ‘model’ who’s picture is being sold, gets a percentage of the profit and give them a chance for a better life!

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