Maria grew up in a very poor family. They lived close to the city dump of Rio de Janeiro. This meant they were first in finding food and broken things. Her father could not keep a steady job because of his bad back. He contributed to the household by repairing various things found on the dump. His wife was the principal breadwinner. She did odd jobs, mostly cleaning and babysitting for well-to-do families. Maria had two friends in the shack next door. They possessed a dirty half-broken baby carriage and a kitten, which they put in the carriage. Her friends strode around the neighborhood like two important ladies. They did not allow any other child to play with the carriage or the kitten, not even Maria, out of fear something would go wrong. This made Maria very jealous.
Time went on and Maria turned out to be a beautiful girl with long dark hair and deep wistful eyes, though she was only twelve. Then one day something terrible happened. Her mother became the victim of a hit and run felony. Her father had to tell her that he could no longer support her or her younger brother of ten. In other words, they were put out on the street. There were no relatives they could go to. Their father let them go with the words "Que Deus abençoe a vós! (God bless you!)"
Like all the other homeless kids, they soon started stealing food, as begging hardly helped. One day they hid in a container and heard shots. What some street urchins had warned them about, unfolded before their very eyes. Four children aged around six or seven, who were not so street wise, were shot in cold blood. They heard the killers say that it was a good thing to rid the streets of this pest. Fortunately for them they were overlooked.
The next day they washed themselves in the basin of a fountain at the center of the city and decided to take it easy for a while. They looked their best under the circumstances and went begging. Everybody refused them, except for one very friendly shop owner. He asked Maria's brother for his name and gave him some money, saying: "Deliver this package to Mr. so-and-so there-and-there and when you come back I will give you twice the amount." When José arrived at the house a sinister man opened the door and accepted the stuff with a grin. José thought he was only glad to receive his things. When he returned the shopkeeper said that Maria was done doing her chores and had left to buy some food. He was to meet her in half an hour at the fountain. This could not be further from the truth, for she was lying bound and gagged in a backroom.
The same evening she was taken to a bordel (brothel). They broke her will with beatings, snakes and threats. The next evening she was deflowered for a small fortune by a businessman from the West. He did with her for a few hours everything that pleased his accursed mind, till she lost her consciousness. After some time she came to in a room filled with girls, some even younger than herself and with faces that bespoke insufferable sorrow.
"I have met 'o diabo' (the devil)," were her first words, "and his name is Charley."
"Charley is only a sex tourist from New York," the most experienced girl said. "The devil had mercy on you. On the streets you would sooner or later have been raped anyway, tortured and killed by some perverts."
A few years went by and she dreamed of escaping and becoming an independent prostitute with her own pimp, or even a madame. One day her very own brother visited the brothel. He flaunted an expensive three-piece suit. Almost immediately she made a sign, approached him voluptuously, raised his hand gracefully and led him with perfect poise to a separate room, saying:
"Eu sou a melhora! (I am the best!)" There they made a plan de campagne. It turned out that he was heavily involved in the world of drugs. He simply bought her freedom for a hefty amount and made her his personal secretary and junior partner.