In less than a month, tens of thousands of devotees to the cigar-smoking and liquor-swilling Venezuelan religious cult, El Espiritismo Marialioncero, will make their yearly pilgrimage to Sorte Mountain. Located there is their most important spiritual site: a shrine to Maria Lionza, their highest deity, the spirit of a departed native chief’s daughter.
It is impossible to pin down exactly who Maria Lionza was, the differing accounts of her history being numerous and varied. Whether or not she was an actual historical figure is still argued. Few hints can be gathered from the many disassociated images of her, some showing a crowned, green-eyed girl surrounded by the forest and animals, and some, like the famous statue by Alejandro Colina standing beside the Francisco Fajardo Highway in Caracas, depicting a warrior woman, astride a tapir, holding a female pelvis above her head.