Thanks to her "warrior" nature, 13-year-old Lesly managed to keep her younger siblings safe for 40 days in the jungle. The grandmother of the four indigenous boys who were found alive this Friday after surviving a plane crash and were left homeless in the Colombian Amazon is convinced of this.
"She always took care of them when mom worked. I gave them fariñita, casabito (flour and cassava bread), any fruit in the bush," Fatima Valencia, the mother of Magdalena Mucutuy, who died when the plane in which she was traveling with her children crashed on May 1, told AFP.
Indigenous women "are very warlike," Valencia emphasizes, while waiting in a hotel in the city of Villavicencio (center) for the moment to see their grandchildren.
The boys were located Friday afternoon in the middle of the jungle and transported by helicopter to San José del Guaviare, the nearest municipality. Around midnight an Air Force ambulance plane was taking them to Bogotá.
"I just want to see them, touch them," adds Fidencio Valencia, the children's grandfather, also in Villavicencio.
Like little Lesly, her brothers Soleiny (9) and Tien Noriel (4) "are very boars (skilled) to walk" through the jungle, the 47-year-old Huitoto indigenous man had told AFP in another interview.
A member of the indigenous community who helped the military in the search for the boys, this Friday after the rescue. Photo: REUTERS
Little Cristin also survived, who turned one year old during the children's amazing journey through the forest.
How was the search
With sniffer dogs, helicopters and aircraft, a hundred soldiers and dozens of indigenous people found the bodies of the three adults traveling on the aircraft. The children, however, were not located.
From then on, a spectacular search operation was launched by heaven and earth in which they found clues that showed that at least one of them was still alive: scissors, a bottle, bitten fruits, improvised shelters with leaves. Indications that children may be wandering among the dense vegetation inhabited by jaguars, pumas and venomous snakes.
"We don't let our guard down with our grandfather, with my brother, every night we pray," Fatima says. They entrusted the fate of the minors to the "spirits of tobacco and mambe," a preparation based on coca leaf used by native peoples in their rituals.
Two of the indigenous boys rescued, during their transfer in a military plane to Bogotá, on Friday night. Photo: EFE
True to the beliefs of the Huitoto people, they suspected that some supernatural force prevented the rescue.
After the discovery, the grandparents thanked the hundred soldiers and indigenous people who worked shoulder to shoulder in the search. "Also to Mother Earth who released them," Fatima added.
At first, the so-called "Operation Hope" followed the trail of the children in an area of about 323 square kilometers, equivalent to the entire province of Buenos Aires. Last week the Army managed to reduce the area to 20 square kilometers, but heavy rains that last up to 16 hours a day made the task difficult.
Barefoot and very thin
The country was deluded on May 17 with the supposed rescue of the children, when President Gustavo Petro announced it falsely. The next day he retracted and claimed that he had been misinformed.
On this occasion, the president gave the news with images of the minors in the middle of the jungle as proof of the rescue.
"Until I looked at the pictures of them (I said): yes it's true," Fatima says relieved.
In the pictures they look very thin and have no shoes. A group of doctors was waiting this morning for his arrival at a military airport in Bogotá to evaluate his state of health.
However, Fatima and Fidencio asked to be the first to attend to them: "We have to blow their bodies so that they gain strength and there we deliver them so that the western part can look at them," said the grandmother.
From now on he hopes to have "custody" of the children, after the death of their mother: "I can give them education, I can still. That's going to be my pride. My daughter is watching and she is going to give me spiritual encouragement, strength," he said.