LA PAZ – A group of Bolivian teenagers rescued from human trafficking and smuggling have adapted the classic children’s story Pinocchio showing the character as a victim of these crimes in a play.
The work was the product of therapeutic talks with more than a dozen teenagers from the Munasim Kullakita Foundation (love yourself sister in Aymara, one of Bolivia’s official languages), which protects rescued children.
Together with the Dreamcatcher cast it presented the work this week in the Modesta Sanjines municipal theater in La Paz.
“Pinocchio was adapted from a real context to fiction and from fiction to reality, although it seems illogical, but that is what happens, many problems of reality seem fiction,” director Emerson Ramirez told EFE.
The cast spent four months in therapy, the rewriting of the story and staging were based on the experiences of the teenagers who were rescued from forced labor and sexual exploitation and added scenes based on their own experiences, Ramirez added.
This was how the wooden puppet Pinocchio, from the Italian children’s book by Carlo Collodi, ended up being coaxed by the puppeteer Honest John who takes him away from school and also by the coachman who leads children to Pleasure Island.
The coachman takes Pinocchio’s clothes off and he returns a wooden girl with a dress and curls in her hair, who must enter a box to be displayed, while praying to return with puppet maker Geppetto, and the coachman determines the price for the sale.
“People seem not to care, who would be interested in a wooden child,” the protagonist said in one scene in the play.
The power and pain of confinement are mixed with songs that express the same feelings and a touch of humor is added by some characters, such as the cunning Talking Cricket.
“The goal is to raise awareness among people and not see this problem as alien, distant, but it is a reality so close that it can happen to anyone, even a wooden child,” Ramirez said.
Geppetto is shown in a desperate search for Pinocchio, while being branded crazy and acting with indifference to his pain.
“We have tried to show vulnerable sectors such as children, adolescents and the elderly,” Ramirez added.
The work is aimed at all audiences, especially young people and adolescents, so that they become aware of the issue and can prevent these situations, in addition to identifying the signs to avoid falling into these traps, Ramirez said.
The process, from therapy to the last scene before closing the curtain, has helped the teenagers strengthen their creativity, feelings of safety and their self-esteem.
“The personal empowerment that each of them has been generating in the staging of this work is very striking and important,” Reyna Cachi, head of the Munasim Kullakita adolescent care program, told EFE.
The foundation has been working with therapy involving art for more than four years, with good results so that children can move on with their lives and dreams, Cachi said.
A photographic exhibition of the foundation’s work over the past 10 years is also on display in one of the rooms which shows the activities it does with the children.
From January to June of this year there were 399 complaints of trafficking and smuggling of people in the country, according to official figures from Bolivian authorities.
A 2018 global report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that 72% of trafficking victims last year were women, 23% of them girls.
In Bolivia, the most reported form of human trafficking was for the purpose of forced labor, followed by sexual exploitation, according to the report.