Maria was taken from her hometown in Mexico at the age of 15, with promises of a well-paying job as a housekeeper for a family in California. Instead, the same woman who offered her the job sold her into slavery to a single, white older male for $200. For five long years she was raped and beaten. She was forced to clean 18 to 20 hours a day while her “boss” dug her own grave, reminding her of what would happen if she tried to escape. After five years, she was freed when her boss was killed by another man. That is, she thought she was finally free, only to learn that she was to be held responsible for his death.
Maria served more than 22 years in prison for a crime she did not commit. That along with five years she spent in forced servitude would be enough horror to make a person unforgiving and ruthless for life. Instead, Maria has been an active member of the Survivor Advisory Caucus at CAST since 2003. For the past five years, she has been a valuable leader and accomplished trainer in CAST’s leadership development program for survivors. She has served as a media spokesperson and conducted numerous newspaper and television interviews to increase public awareness of human trafficking.