The Nazca Lines, A Gift from the Gods that Maria Reiche Protected

The immutable and solitary desert of the plains of Nazca guarded encrypted messages throughout time.  Geometrics, Gods with a human look, and animals that maybe were sacred, are outlines on the gigantic canvas of the Peruvian south.  They point to the cardinal directions and reflect the stars.  Maybe they were offered to the flying Gods since they can only be seen from the sky.

Considered at the time as eccentric because of her life style, Maria Reiche came from Germany to Cuzco in 1932.  Fascinated and amazed by the Andean world, Reiche worked as a tutor for the children of the German consul.  Responding to an announcement in a German newspaper for the position was perhaps the first mark of destiny that showed her the path she had dreamed of from her days in Dresden.  There she would look at an atlas and imagine discovering the exotic Peru.

Maria won over the children of the consul and was always innovative in her teaching methods.  Many times she would hold her classes while wandering through the Cuzco countryside, among the magical mountains.  On one of those trips Maria snagged her finger and it had to be amputated.  Was this a simple coincidence?

Later, because of a variety of circumstances, Reiche moved to Lima where in the same teahouse where she worked she met a North American scientist by the name of Paul Kosok.  At the end of the ‘30s he informed the world of the discovery of unique lined figures seen by Peruvian civil and military pilots.  In that teahouse he told Maria of the mysterious discovery.

The Nazca Lines Can only Be Seen from the Air (Photo: Gabriela Filgueira).
The Nazca Lines Can only Be Seen from the Air (Photo: Gabriela Filgueira).

As a result of her request, Kosok took her to the lines in 1941.  After feeling something inexplicable, Reiche began her history with the geoglyphs.  As the lines were revealed before her eyes, the gods for whom they may have been made began sending her signs.  In this way she found the destiny that had she had first envisaged in her other life and country.


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The mysterious line and the reasons for their existence became the raison d’être from Maria.  One by one, theories arose as Kosok left the desert.  Maria and all the hypotheses that flooded her mind stayed on the desert planes.

Every day, the eccentric Maria, captivated by the gods of the desert, visited “her” lines with a ladder, as well as some fruit and her sweetened water as nourishment. She also would bring a broom to sweep the desert clean and take care of the lines.  The image of Maria constantly sweeping the desert gave her the nickname of “witch” from the locals who could not understand in those days how a woman and a gringa could live such a life.  With time their ideas of her changed.

Flying over the Plains of Nazca (Photo: Gabriela Filgueira).
Flying over the Plains of Nazca (Photo: Gabriela Filgueira).

She would sleep in the desert.  She put together a rolling home with her mythical Volkswagen that she had bought thanks to the help of her sister.  She also lived in an abandoned home whose use she begged from the owners of an hacienda called San Pablo in the Ingenio Valley.

With the passage of years, recognition came from the people of Nazca. It grew and she could leave the abandoned home of the hacienda and take up a comfortable room in a tourist hotel in the city where she would also give talks.

The Peruvian air force placed itself at her service and even with an advanced age she loved to fly over the geoglyphs for ours at a time, the same ones to which she used to walk. Homage was given to her nationally and internationally.  Maria would sweep around the lines throughout her life, as time permitted, through the last day of her life in Nazca.

To the end, Maria held to the idea of an astronomic calendar.  Yet she never notices a sign the gods had prepared for her.  The figure called “the hands” was also missing a finger.  Maybe this was a sign or a divined reflection of her life and of the finger she lost in Cuzco due to an infection.






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