The girl who mocked me
By Mariana Bazo
I arrived, greeted her, and was practically ignored by her. I took a few pictures, but it wasn’t a situation just to jump into and shoot away. I approached her and chatted. She was indifferent to the camera. Her movements were quick as she spun around. I didn’t want to invade her space, so I mostly observed and conversed. She hardly spoke to me, or to anyone.
At one point she was exercising with a ball and her trainer, and as I was taking pictures I tripped and fell on my back. She started to laugh a lot, at me.
I asked her, “Hey, are you mocking me?”
“YES!” she answered moving her head. We laughed together, looking at each other as I took more photos. We were suddenly more relaxed.
Yovana was born with the rare tetra-amelia syndrome. She was born without limbs in a very poor region of Peru’s remote jungle. Thanks to a television report her story became known and a Lima doctor took on her case. Dr. Luis Rubio gained national fame two years ago after successfully operating on Milagros Cerron, a child who suffers from the mermaid syndrome. Now he has initiated a crusade for help to provide her with a bionic arm, one that would receive orders from the chest muscles. During Yovana’s stay in Lima her health will be evaluated and she will receive psychological and motor stimulation.
She’s just like any child in so many ways. It occurred to me that we all probably seem clumsy to her. She showed me that she never falls as she spins around, stopping on the table’s edge. She’s developed amazing dexterity with her back and neck, able to move along the floor and spin without banging herself, and with an unusual sense of orientation. She can draw with a pencil squeezed between her shoulder and face. She uses her teeth and tongue as if they were fingers. But she still needs help to improve her speech.
Photographing Yovana was an opportunity for me to interact with someone very different. As I worked I sought a connection with her, without being awkward, and I came to feel very close. It was hard not to invade her space, but get close with respect. To survive with a handicap in Peru one needs a lot of support and luck. The support comes from volunteers, and to be able to show her predicament to others through my photographs was satisfying.