Marlene Bueno Panduro
In the country of Peru, South America, one of its best kept secrets is lying right out in broad daylight. In the desert, not far from the ocean, giant pictures of animals have been drawn and outlined with tiny rocks, but no one can actually make them out while viewing them from the ground. Not until the 1930s, when airplanes began to fly over the area, did these enormous drawings on the desert floor become clearly visible. One of the first people to see these pictures, was a German woman, Dr. Maria Reiche, who was educated in mathematics, geography and astronomy.
The first time Maria saw these line drawings from an airplane, she knew she had to learn more about how they were made and by whom. In 1946 she began her life-long study of these lines, living very simply on the edge of the desert. There she studied the giant spider, the monkey, the lizard, the dog, the iguana, and several birds, trying to figure out how they were drawn so perfectly and what their purpose might have been. She learned that the images had been carved into the desert floor over a long period of time, probably over two thousand years, with the last images drawn around the year 630. Because there is almost no rain there, the lines have not faded during all this time.
For fifty-two years Maria Reiche dedicated herself to preserving these mysterious desert images. Because she repeatedly urged the Peruvian government to protect this area, in 1974 it was declared a historic monument, where no one is allowed to drive or walk over it. The people of Peru saw Maria as a hero, and she was granted Peruvian citizenship and given a place to live in Nazca. While she was never able to prove how and why the lines were drawn, her theory connects the images to the constellations of stars and the placement of the sun at different times of the year. In the last years of her life, Maria had grown almost completely blind, so her sister came from Germany to help her. Finally, on June 8, 1998, Maria died in Nazca at the age of 95. All of Peru mourned her death because she had discovered these secret treasures in the Nazca desert and spent her whole life protecting them from harm.