Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Raised by Monkeys...Marina Chapman's Story


“My story starts with my earliest memory. I was four; squeezing pods until the peas popped in our allotment that bordered the village. A black hand suddenly clamped a damp white cloth over my nose and mouth; as I tried to scream the hand pushed harder and the sky turned black.”

Marina’s kidnappers abandoned her deep in a remote Colombian jungle. Surrounded by terrifying noises and trapped by its sheer suffocating denseness, half-drugged and starving, Marina tried to find her way home. She searched for food and water along the way, competing with big cats, poisonous spiders, giant pythons, extraordinary insects and huge bats.

Two days later, she was confronted by about twenty curious capuchin monkeys. By following them and copying what they ate and drank, their social activities, their language, Marina gradually became part of the family for five extraordinary years. They fought, played and shared tender and terrifying experiences. Marina developed extraordinary super-human abilities such as tree-climbing, stealth and animal communication.

Discovered by a pair of hunters, she was sold into slavery in exchange for a parrot. She escaped from her abusive captors after a year and fled to the concrete jungle of Cucuta, Colombia’s most lawless city, where she lived on the streets, picking pockets to survive, eventually leading her own gang of thieves.

This was only the start of Marina’s breathtaking story, a story that doesn’t let up for a single moment. From being forced to work in a brothel in Colombia’s most dangerous town to cooking the Duke of Kent the ‘best quiche I’ve ever had’, from encountering pythons, crocodiles and big cats in the wilds of Colombia to surviving car crashes and bombs on the streets of Cucuta to scrambling up the trees of Bradford, England, from facing three seemingly insurmountable tragedies to finally finding love in the UK, Marina’s inspirational and astonishing story is truly unforgettable.

  To say Marina Chapman has led a remarkable life is no understatement. Marina has come a long way from the remote jungles of Colombia where she lived with a troop of capuchin monkeys for five years. Now married to an Englishman and living in Bradford, Marina has two daughters and works for an inner city children’s nursery.

In between she has led a Colombian street gang made up of homeless and orphaned children, worked in a brothel and as a slave for an abusive crime family in one of the deadliest towns in Colombia, lost three fiancées in untimely, violent deaths, faced depression and a suicide attempt and has become the head chef of a British national institution.

Marina is an exceptionally rare, arguably unique example of an abused, uneducated, feral child who has somehow survived and conquered her misfortune. Part of the wild child is still very much in her; she has spent much of her time in England embarrassing her kids by scaling trees in seconds, catching wild birds and rabbits with her bare hands, as well as milking the odd passing cow. Her wild child still sometimes comes out at work, much to the delight of the children – especially when she brings in various creepy crawlies, amphibians and furry mammals.

Since arriving in England, Marina has dedicated her life to helping less fortunate people. She plans to donate her share of the profits from the publication of Wild Child to help finance charities that combat human trafficking, child slavery and abuse in Colombia.

Vanessa James, 23, is Marina’s youngest daughter. A film score composer by profession, it was Vanessa who convinced Marina to start this book project. As part of the research they travelled together to Cucuta in April 2007. Marina often finds it difficult to find the right words to express her feelings, and it is Vanessa’s unique understanding of her mother’s character and unconventional ways that has made the book possible.

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