Natty Petrosino also called “The Argentinian Mother Teresa” devotes her whole life to poor people for the endless love she feels for God.
Former model and actress, she discovered, the true meaning of her existence in an experiment after death. Forsaking her princess life, she decided to help Wichis (indigenous people of South America) in a region of northern Argentina known for being as poor as Africa. Natty Petrosino was elected in 2006 “Woman of the Year” in Italy and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.
It took me a while to contact Natty Petrosino. About one year and a half. When she wrote to me giving me the green light to make a photo-story about her life I felt very excited. I knew that it’s work and life experiences were about to be just amazing. I packed my stuff and I travelled by bus to Formosa province up to the north of Argentina. After 24 hours bus and car drives I arrived exhausted in the Wichi village deeply isolated in the terrible Impenetrable (wild bush area).
Natty Petrosino has been helping Wichis for nearly 45 years. She was 72 years old when I met her (today she is 77 years) and I was really surprised to see that she had broken two ribs few days before. Despite her pain, she was used to waking up before dawn and lifting bags full of food donations for the Wichis. Every morning she gave bread to the starving children. When they see Natty Petrosino outside with bread in the hand they run as quick as possible barefoot in the red ground with some skinny dogs behind them. Wichis in Argentina suffer of starving, racial discrimination and lack of education and health system.
I slept in the living room of a small house that Natty Petrosino built with her own hands while she used to sleep in her small trailer with her Yorkshire pet. One day, she was washing the dishes when she confessed to me that she didn’t care if Wichis were Catholics or not. Something that she told me in order to let me understand that the real Mother Teresa only gave help to Catholics persons in the India.
I remember that I was sleeping when I heard someone clapping with his hands. It is common to clap hands when you don’t have ring bell. It was an old Wichi woman who was waking Natty Petrosino up in the middle of the night. Her daughter had given birth. At 4 am we ran into the jungle with electric torches to get to the mother and her 5 months fetus. We had to walk into the jungle very carefully avoiding snakes and spiders. Natty Petrosino’s assistant Marco wound his right foot walking on a spine that pierced his boot. When we arrived we found the mother sleeping on a blanket under a tree close to a wood fire. Her fetus was covered in a sheet. During the night she got fever and had a terrible miscarriage. When Natty discovered that the baby was alive we drove as fast as we could to the closest hospital. It was a 40 minutes car drive. There was no light in the car and I decided not doing any photos using flash. I did not want to hurt a 5 months fetus with strong lights in his eyes. Some could think that I was stupid and that flashlights would have not hurt a fetus baby but it was my decision no to do it. I don’t regret it. Meanwhile, Natty in the front seat with the baby in her chest couldn’t help saying: « he is breathing! He still lives! » But when we just got to the hospital he died in Natty’s arms. Natty and the doctor tried to reanimate him but it did not work. Then, we went back to the Wichi village and Natty told his assistant to put the baby in a shoes box. When we got back to the Wichi village Marco gave the shoes box to the father. He caught it without saying nothing and he put it in the floor. Natty took it back and said: « we keep him until tomorrow funeral. The starving dogs might eat him. »