Movie: Maria Full of Grace

By Sue Lavene

Maria Full of Grace (Maria, llena eres de gracia)

This is a distressing though honest view of one young woman's life-changing and life-threatening journey through the dark and scary world of drug trafficking, taking her from her rural town in Colombia to the streets of Queens, NY. Starting the film as an employee of a flower factory, pregnant Maria Alvarez, in search of some desperately needed money for her family, takes the risky plunge to become a "drug mule".

Playing himself in the movie, Orlando Tobon, often referred to as the "Mayor of Little Colombia", in his one-room travel agency in Queens, has worked with many immigrants for more than 15 years, collecting the unclaimed bodies of less fortunate drug couriers, raising money for their burial, helping people to find employment as well as tax preparation. You will find an interesting MSNBC interview with Orlando from May 2004 here.

My overall impression of this film was with mixed emotions, one of a
microscope portrayal of an innocent woman looking to the promise of a
significant sum of money through one of the most dangerous and hated
activities in society. I sat through most of the film white-knuckled,
praying that Maria would make it out alive to be able to use that money toward an honest and bright future in her adopted country.

On the other hand, at times, without getting onto a soapbox, I was angry at the reality that people do smuggle drugs into our country because of the upsetting effects of it seen in the media, though this film carefully focuses its energies back on the people swallowing the drug pellets. I couldn't help but feel the human side of the women's ordeals and their obvious desperation. Even though, at times, it's difficult to watch, I would recommend it. And for lovers of the Spanish language, it's shown in Spanish (with subtitles)!

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