Day Care

Day Care by Marina K. Villatoro

Market day in La Antigua Guatemala is much more than just getting your weekly produce or enjoying a photo moment of local Guatemalan life. To me it’s a sneak peak into the hard lives of the market workers and their families. The markets of Guatemala are full of little kids that have to spend their whole days sitting amongst fruits, vegetables, flowers and anything else that is for sale. Without beds, mothers have to get creative as to where to lay their children down.

I actually always wonder, where do they go after the market, what do they do?

This child is still to young to walk or talk, however, I’ve seen little kids as young as three years old selling stuff while walking through the market. They might not know how to say complete sentences but they can certainly say ‘eight quetzal or one dollar’. The biggest heartbreak is that you become immune to it. Even if you try not to!

Whenever we see these kids anywhere around Guatemala and on some of our travels through Nicaragua my husband constantly brings up that they have absolutely no childhood. They go from sleeping in their mother’s cloths to selling on the streets or cleaning in the house or caring after their siblings without a moment of happiness or childhood.

When we lived in Costa Rica, the landlord of a property I lived on hired a young Nicaraguan boy. He couldn’t have been older than 20. On the same property lived other families with kids. We always left the toys, tricycles and scooters outside. Every free moment he had he used to take these for rides, or you could find him playing with the toys that a five year old would play with and he was having the time of his life! Sheer happiness exuded from him. My husband’s observation was, this is him making up for his lost childhood. I’m sure his life wasn’t much different than the boy in the picture. So maybe these kids can grow up and still make up for their lost youth.

An interesting article describes how these children let out their energy as they get older, even when they are working the streets or at the market. Culture Unshocked: Toys and Play. It gives another point of view into the same culture, but with a different approach from mine.

However, one thing I do agree is, they certainly don’t take anything for granted and even the smallest things that people of different classes overlook, could bring a wonderful experience to them.

text and photo by Marina K. Villatoro

Marina Villatoro Portrait About Guest Contributor: Marina K. Villatoro has been living in Central America for over 7 years and her site Travel Experta is all about traveling in Central America. Marina loves to help people plan the perfect vacation to this amazing part of the world! At her website, you can sign up for her RSS feed and join the fun on her Facebook fan page and follow her on Twitter at @MarinaVillatoro.

© 2009 – 2012, Marina Villatoro. All rights reserved.

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  • kwallek

    I grew up in the country here in Ohio, kids had jobs/chores that fit their age group. We played as much as any kids but it was after the work was done. I never saw a backhoe on my Dad’s place till I left home, he said how deep and how wide and a day or week later the hole was ready for whatever was going into it. Its funny but I find digging good exercise now. Work in moderation is a good thing for kids, they will find time to play, it is their nature. And by the way, I liked your post.

  • Hi Kwallek!

    I definitely agree about work for kids! Since we don’t have much hard work to do in the house, my son’s one job is school and homework and I tell him when he does his ONE job he can play. When I look at these kids on the street and wonder about my son doing that, it’s like lifetime differences!

    However, everything should be done in moderation. I see little kids no older than 3 or 5 lugging huge hulls of wood on their head, or little girls carrying their brothers and sisters while carrying stuff on their head. Their little faces already look more aged then some adults.

    • @Marina, regarding your “Their little faces already look more aged then some adults.”, you should read Laura‘s Mayan Child of Maturity for a very tender and revealing take on this aging.

      • @Rudy, that is a great post. I too have noticed how mature and older these kids are for their age!

        • Thanks for the shout Rudy! 😉

          Excellent observations and a great truth to capture Marina. A more thorough, reactionary comment to follow shortly below…

  • Eric

    Hola Marina ! Interesting post, and I like the photo very much. Whenever I see shots like this, I can smell the ocote, the tortillas, the exhaust from the buses…ah, the memories. And yes, a day at the market is always so much more than, well, a day at the market.
    I have to confess that I take all sorts of emotional routes through the whole ‘working your way through childhood’ thing. Like kwallek, I grew-up in farm country where there was work to be done any moment that you weren’t at school or sleeping. The closest children my age were several miles away, so school was the highlight of the day – no manual labor, and lots of socializing. I realize many of these ninos will not have the opportunity to attend school, and that part makes me sad. However, when I talk to them, and speak with their families, I see how proud the kids are to be helping out, how they look forward to market day for the socializing, and I hear stories about the time they sold extra zanahorias, and had the money to make a special dinner, or buy a new pair of shoes. They are so proud, and it makes me proud of them. All things in moderation, definitely, but where that’s not possible, I guess you just have to buckle-down and do your best. Thanks for the great post.

  • Hi Eric,

    You know what’s interesting, I’ll confess, I have never spoken to these kids and families about their experiences. One, I’m a bit intimidated. Two, even though I am fluent in Spanish, but being a blond puts a stereotype into people immediately and whenever the market people see me, they immediately think I can’t speak Spanish and turn off their listening gears and I can barely explain that I want tomatoes nonetheless ask about their lives.
    Three, I feel like an imposture, asking them about their hardships when it’s so obvious that I will never fully grasp what they go thru.

    So, your comment actually makes me feel proud for them as well! Thanks for the reply:)

    • I was traveling up a random dirt road near Tecpan with a friend and the local, indigenous people where scattered throughout the misty, sloping terrain harvesting potatoes. The stared back at us just as curiously as we stared at them. They truly had a unique look, notieceably different than those I interact with in Antigua, at the beach or at the Lake. I love observing the differences among the people throughout various regions of Guate! When I raised my camera though, they often ran to hide. (Nonethless, I still have photos. Some of the thousands I have yet to deal with… smile.) Okay, I’m getting off track…

      The point is: as I was passing through this parallel world that I knew absolutely nothing about, I felt overwhelmed with the desire to experience more than what I could simply through “window shopping” the culture. Like you Marina, I too “feel like an imposture, asking them about their hardships when it’s so obvious that I will never fully grasp what they go thru.”

      Thus, I’m slowly try to piece together a project where I would take at least a month to step out of my world and step into theirs. Live exactly as they do, do exactly what they do, experience much of what they do. I’d love to do a documentary on it… write about book about it at the very least! Of course, I still need to court a family and learn their language first… thus… it’s a big project! But, one I’m very keen on doing.

      Anyway, your “imposter” comment really struck a chord with me…

  • A very good subject for discussion………..Childhood has as many different meanings as there are peoples and cultures, and even the concept of ”teenager” didnt even exist until the 1950’s.Lovely photo as well Marina…

  • Hi Michele,

    Thanks! You know what’s funny, I actually had a pretty crappy childhood. So, you’re soooo right, what exactly is childhood!

  • @Marina, interesting enough, at the Club Fotográfico de Antigua we have as one of the theme photos “niños trabajadores” for the September meeting.

    You should come to the next meeting, we meet the first Thursday of each month at La Casa de la Moneda, right across from La Sin Ventura from 7 p.m. to 10; eveyone is welcome.

    Check out the web site for the photo club here.

  • Hi! That is really interesting, Rudy:) I’ll try to make it!

  • Guy

    Hi Marina,
    There’s certainly a rather interesting informal/virtual village community which comes together under the cover of Antigua’s market

    Last week we saw a poor kid who was selling BIC razors slip up on an uneven floor and immediately several women from the nearby stalls rushed to his aid. He can’t have been more than ten.

    Now, whilst I wouldn’t equate these kids’ lack of a childhood in any way with that of say certain Russian tennis players, there is something of a school of life going on here, and it would be presumptious to assume that the people who work there, minors included, are particularly worthy of pity.

    Many acquire useful commercial skills and go on to prosper, certainly in comparison to some kids here who do attend school but drop out and then proceed to drift through life.

    On a completely separate note, the ancient Maya made toys and some of these had wheels. So don’t let anyone tell you that they never invented the wheel. What they didn’t have was any kind of domesticated beast which would make such an invention useful for transportation.

  • Hi Guy!

    You know what’s interesting. I was going after the cliche childhood, but reading other people’s prespectives, I’m starting to wonder!

    I personally had a pretty crappy childhood, became a super rebellious teen.

    So you know what, they might not have it so bad after all. It’s just different!

    BTW! My husband constantly tells me about the Maya inventing the wheel and also that they were the first to use zero.

    • To add to the invaluable wealth of info that I never learned in my cushy suburbian childhood: how to cook and a knowledge for all the wonderful natural foods and herbs that can prevent massive diseases that consume the “educated, white class” in North America now. Just the other day someone told me about an indigenous tree that grows here in Guate, where EVERY part of the tree could be used either for nutrition or tools. It’s nutritious enough to survive off of it. Yet, for many years, with colonial influence the Maya knowledge of this tree was disappearing. Now, scientists have “rediscovered” the immense value of this tree. In the meantime, the rest of the world is crying out about food crisis. I would say there is much less “lack of food.” It’s more just a “lack of knowledge” about the natural resources we have right in front of our face. I bet these kids that spend days in the market know so much more about maintaining health than I do… Just a couple years ago I learned about how healthy flax seed oil is… linaza is found everywhere in the market. But, a lot of this cultural knowledge is dying because kids are going to “western” school. Both have their value and both need to be appreciated.

      Another friend was just talking about his time in Hawaii. There is a Polynesian guy from some island near Fiji that can navigate a canoe by laying down in it and feeling the reverberations of the water. Through the reverberations he can tell where land is… incredible. Yet, he’s old now and has no apprentice. People are worried this talent will die with him. All the kids “were in school” and no one could devote a life on sea with him to learn…

      Not saying school isn’t good. But, I don’t think it should be viewed as such a necessity. There are many invaluable things that must be learned in a life that has no time for “formal education.” Both kinds of knowledge should be valued and appreciated.

      Sorry my thoughts are kind of run-on right now. Trying to do ten things at once…

  • Manolo RomEsco

    Every time I see or listen or read about childhood I remind myself of the research of Barbara Rogoff on the cultural aspects of development. Also, that it is unfortunate that it takes for foreigners to pay attention to this richness before us ladinos/criollos think it is interesting.

    • @Manolo, thanks for all of those hard to find and wonderful links you always provide. 🙂

  • Rodolfo Mendoza

    Marina wrote: “they might not have it so bad after all” I hope you are just joking.

  • Hey Rodolfo!

    You know what, it’s a total given that they have it bad! There is no way around it! But in my mind it was way way worse, and the fact that these kids can smile and have someone to rely isn’t as horrid as it could be!

  • MO

    I bet kid in this picture wishes he was fortunate (or unfortunate) to be proped up in front of a HD flat screen lcd and set there to watch hours of fun brainless TV kiddie shows.

  • Mey

    “Whenever we see these kids anywhere around Guatemala and on some of our travels through Nicaragua my husband constantly brings up that they have absolutely no childhood. They go from sleeping in their mother’s cloths to selling on the streets or cleaning in the house or caring after their siblings without a moment of happiness or childhood”
    While the circumstances of our Guatemalan children are particularly challenging I feel like your statements above are superficial and culturally biased.

    First let us all remember that the majority of childhood games mimic adult behaviors and are basically a training ground for adult life. The environment and tools used to mimic these behaviors becomes more artificial in developed countries where the child is no longer an integrated participant or contributor of the family unit. Your kids may play store with plastic vegetables to learn the concepts of work, trade and value, our children sell real vegetables to learn the same.

    Some key items to remember as you observe other cultures include:

    Happiness is measured in a localized and not a global context. Rest assured; while these children know poverty, grief and suffering God in His kind provision and mercy also gives them moments of joy and happiness in ways so pure we; the “prosperous happy ones” will never understand.

    It is not all work. If you ever have the opportunity to take a closer look at their whole day and not a brief marketplace interaction you will be both surprised and delighted upon the realization that this “unhappy souls”
    have chamuscas, capiruchos, trompos, pelotas de tripa de coche and a few plastic soldiers in their pockets.

    Poverty comes with no pretension and limited geographical mobility these children have stable social networks. They are likely to have far more than the 2.4 close friends that we average in our happy developed kingdoms.

    Work is part of life. From birth, regardless of our place in the world we are to make an effort to obtain resources. Even the air that we breathe requires effort.

    The other side of the coin is the extremely prosperous child sitting idle in front of the TV, laptop or Nintendo constantly demanding a new gadget, always hungry with the disease of consumerism, prone to temper tantrums and on it’s way to a life of dissatisfaction, greed and a unmerited sense of entitlement.

    Should you have it in your heart to have a positive influence in the improvement of their conditions please do not do it by giving them a toy a moving forward with life. Commit your time and resources towards programs that integrate, work skills, recreation, education and nutrition. There are numerous organizations engaged in delivering holistic improvement to our children.

    Do not be intimidated to approach our people. Your blondness is nothing new to children or adults in Antigua.
    Get to know them and learn to serve them. It will bless you and it will bless them.

    • @Mey I actually give as much as I can to children that I have at hand. The comment that was made by my husband, was about his upbringing as a Guatemalan in a tiny village, El Jute, where the cultural differences are minimum and this was what he saw day in and day out.

      When I say my blondness, I’m actually not referring to Antigua, I’m referring to Guatemala on a whole. I have lived in other parts of guatemala where, trust me, my blondness was a beacon of attention. and Kids, as well as some adults have come up to me and touched my hair becasue they have never seen it. It was a weird experience for both me and them at the same time.

      And you are sooooooo right, a kid who ‘has it all’ does waste his or her days in front of the TV, which I think is a sin beyond words.

    • @Mey, thank you so much for adding another intelligent and thoughtful layer to the discussion. P.S. I miss you and Jerry… tell him to get down from his naïf-painting high overviews and share with us his experiences in rural Guatemala. 😉

  • Guy

    I must confess to having had a fairly easy childhood, and certainly the best education available in my country. But the niggling sense of what I might have missed out on became more pronounced after I met my wife (before which time I barely knew how to crack an egg in the kitchen!) and I am conscious that I remain on so many levels a bit useless.

    Anyway, here’s a little thought experiment which I think is relevant to your image and this debate. Suppose you are a Nat Geo photographer who happens across an isolated tribe in the Amazon basin. I put it to you that your immediate concern for these people — and their children — would not be their lack of access to the the kind of healthcare and education provided by the modern state. Indeed you might well be more likely to want to protect them from pernicious interactions with modernity. And, perhaps ironically, you would be much less likely to consider their situation in terms of poverty, unhappiness, misfortune etc.

    But transpose this community into the core of a nation functioning within the global economy and the sense of comparative lack is likely to become suddenly acute. But I’d still contend that it may not be exactly the same sense of lack for the person witnessing the poverty as the person experiencing it — and one runs the risk of being patronising if one assumes that it is. There is always a danger that we project pain and disappointment onto people who lack things it would be painful and disappointing to lack ourselves.

    I’m reminded of the controversy surrounding the the movie Slumdog Millionaire, described by one prominent reviewer as ‘poverty porn’. For many others it was a fictional narrative in which the very debate we are having here was intelligently embedded, and I’d be inclined to agree, I have come across images in the past where Third World childhood has been rather disturbingly aestheticised for the edification of affluent outsiders…perhaps by photographers unaware that they were doing it at the time. (BTW Paris Hilton was in town earlier this week and you can still read the tweets she wrote about the poverty tourism she conducted in the rural highlands.)

    Nevertheless, for an educated person, either Guatemalan or gringo, factoring in the developmental context makes things pretty stark – there are children being kept out of school who might have gone on to become useful professionals, and a vast amount of potential is surely being squandered at the national level. As I mentioned on my blog in response to the Revue article that you mentioned, there are way too few young girls in the education system here.

    Back in my hypothetical Amazonian community individuals do at least appear to have a fair shot at realising their full potential, at least as understood by their own society, and many of them, materially poor to our eyes, will nevertheless achieve high status there.

    • @Guy, now that you mentioned miss Hilton, some people that know said that she was given a beautiful painting from Comalapa and she left thrown at the hotel room, which was a mess by the way. Nothing new really, but her tweets about her sense and sensitivity for the “poor” people of Guatemala leaves much to be desired. I enjoy your thought experiment very much… it makes me question my set of values.

  • Manolo RomEsco

    @Guy… you just gave a lecture on Practical Intelligence, excellent comment.

    @Mey… agree with all your (also long) comment… until you used the phrase “our people”… I am not sure how to take it… are you identified as “Maya” or are you Ladino and feel ownership of them?

    • @Manolo, Mey is Guatemalan so what she meant by “our people” was Guatemalans. I guess I understood it correctly because I know Mey personally. I didn’t think it was ambiguous though.

  • Mey

    Hi Marina,
    Our people refers to us Guatemalans. poverty, child labor, limited education and hopelessness is not exclusive to indigenous people.

    I have never had a sense of ownership or superiority over any ethnic group but rather have had a calling to serve my people (fellow Guatemalans) in a way that honors God and makes best use of my resources and talents.

    I have been honored to have wonderfully reciprocal relationships with adults and children of modest background sometimes indigenous sometimes simply poor but always Guatemalan. I refuse to be an element of polarization by focusing on the genetic aspects that make us different instead of the human aspects that make us similar.

    I am curious if your childhood which you describe as severe (crappy) and point to it as the root of your rebellion ever included things such as famine, persecution, war, homelessness, malnutrition, no access to basic health services or full separation from educational institutions.

    Or; if in looking back you are able to realize that even when challenging and perhaps not always pleasant your childhood was training ground that would equip you with the sensitivity and values that define who you are today and enable you to be compassionate and aware of the needs of others.

    Happy day to all!

  • Mey

    My reply regarding the Mayans is for Manolo and my question about childhood is for Marina!!!

  • Hi Mey,

    The ‘our people’ should be referred to the person making the comment, which wasn’t me!

    I had a crappy childhood, coming from communist russia. So if you know anything about that, you can say, i had poverty, complete discrimination because I’m a jew!

    I had no toys for the better part of my life. When I moved to the US during cold war, for some reason all the ignorant parents made sure all the kids made me feel responsible for what russia was doing to them.

    So yes, I can relate and I am doing all I can to help!

  • Erick

    I really like this picture. Although it can be a common site in the markets of Guatemala, it’s definitely a rare site here in the U.S., so I appreciate the different emotions that this picture evokes in everybody (as we’ve seen from all the different comments).

    • @Erick, that’s the whole raison d’etre of AntiguaDailyPhoto: to show you “normal” day-to-day imagery that touches a fiber or nerve that makes you think or simply entertains you for a moment or two. 😉

  • MO

    A picture is worth a thousand words! Indeed…based on all the responses I think this picture is worth more that 1K words.

    • @MO, the actual Chinese proverb was wrongly translated as “A Picture Is Worth One Thousand Words” instead of the literal translation which is “A Picture’s Meaning Can Express Ten Thousand Words”. See my text “El texto frente a la imagen” in Spanish regarding this Chinese proverb.

  • Mey

    Hi Rudy!!
    Jerry is reading this thread as we speak



  • Hi Marina, after viewing the post title in twitter “Day Care” I automatically related it to babies, and then went to the post, and started reading, and indeed after the first lines I read “hard lives”.

    My wife and I run a small office in GT City, and have daughter now 7, that where able to take here to “work” since she was 30 days old, a lot of relatives told us why we have not use a “DayCare” of get a maid, I can assure you in our case that having her under my wife’s care @ work (Could be a “puesto en el mercado”) until she had an age to go to formal school was the best decision.

    The fact is, we cannot assure is “hard life”, but if it is, there you can see a mother giving a child the best of all examples. If it is a hard life, it has to do more with the system (ref. to Guatemala) and how things are going on in our country not kids or families all fault, and even after all, studies put Guatemala in 4th position in Happiness level, ticos on top, (BTW don’t quite understand how or why do the metrics).

    Finally, I can understand how you feel about this baby in the picture since I have noted in your posts how you and your son enjoy each other all around CR and now GT… 😉

    Sorry my bad english and take care. 🙂

  • Hi Neavilag,

    You’re English is great! What touches me most about these kids is the restriction that I see they have to go through each day. Whenever I pass the vendors the kids are always in one place, sitting, lying down. It’s the mobility and freedom to grow naturally.

    I understand they don’t have the option for schooling, however, there are other factors.

    I have no idea who is doing the measuring for the happiest countries. Columbia was #2 a couple of years ago.

  • Mey

    Hi Marina,
    In the case of the photo in question the child appears to be under 2 years of age. The standard sleep requirements for a child of that age is about 14 hours. If to this standard you add a little bit extra sleep in order to compensate for malnutrition and environmental stress you are looking at about 16 hours of hamaca, or tomato box time.This leaves us with 8 remaining hours of waking time in which you should expect at least four to be spent in sitting position involved in activities which encourage motor and visual skills. That is; holding stuff and looking around. For that age group; mobility is secondary to proper rest which is key for skeletal and muscular growth and well as neurological development.

    Any child development professional will tell you that the understanding and application of boundaries is far more important at an early age that having freedom and mobility.

    While the circumstances of these children are by no means ideal I feel you are allowing a very ethnocentric perspective to cloud your ability to adequately assess the happiness level, relative safety and realization of full potential of these young lives.

    Appropriate child development is not necessarily the result of a child frolicking freely in a field of tulips or a color-saturated playground holding the hand of a uniformed nanny.

    I fully agree with Neavilag that plenty of us have been blessed with an under-the-desk, behind the counter or inside the canasto or tomato box infancy. This is a great testimony to the commitment of a mother to provide both; resources and personal care to their child.

    Would you feel sorry for a Maasai lady in Africa for walking around topless? Would you consider giving her one of your brassieres or a shirt to cover her nakedness?

    Buenas noches a todos! Me retiro a mi caja de tomates donde soñaré con una Guatemala mejor.

  • Hi Mey!

    Are you telling me you grew up in a box of rotten tomatoes. Well, I’m super impressed. You are a fluent English Speaker, that’s great. It you sound like a very educated person.

    However, we all know this kid isn’t going to get an education. And I wasn’t talking about frolicking in some tulip field, that’s weird. I was talking about, exactly what you were saying – developing motor skills. What skills is he developing?

    This can be taken as an personal offense, but the reality is and we all know it. This is not a great way to be brought up. I use this kid, but why don’t you head to the back of the Market where there is a garbage dump, I could’ve of easily taken a picture of kids sitting there while their parents rummage thru the garbage to feed them.

    You’re not going to tell me that’s a normal way as well.

    I am in Guatemala at the moment, so we’re talking about Guatemala. But if I was in the States and walking around a gang-war-fare ghetto. I would point out that is no way for a kid to be brought up either.

    This photo is not a personal attack on Guatemalans, it is a reality shot!

    About a shirtless woman in Africa. Don’t even see a similarity. Rotten tomatoes and shirtless? My kid is 5 and still runs around naked, so no I wouldn’t feel sorry for her and give her my bra.

    But I would give a starving child food, that seems to be closer to the topic.

    • Whoa. I would not agree with “we all know this kid isn’t going to get an education” one bit. I know plenty of Hondurans and Guatemalans that grew up in such very similar situations that are currently attending college.

      • I have always thought to myself often, while traveling through rural Honduras, Guatemala, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos… that the poor really aren’t so “poor.” Their riches come in many ways. I could live in a shack with a sparkling waterfall and a blue lagoon in my exotic jungle backyard. I seriously could. The weeks and months I’ve spent trekking through these natural wonders eating simple foods like rice and beans were such a relief for me. Living simply and enjoying nature. By western standards this is “poor.” But, truth is, its far richer. My stress leaves and my smile is glued to my face when I’m indulging in such getaways. BUT, like anyone else, I fall prey to the “gotta have more” greed when I re-enter “modern, western” society. I start dreaming of bigger and better things… thinking I, myself, am not so well off. (Ha! I was just in the jungle with people living in a shack and now I’m dining at a restaurant that charges for a meal what many earn in a month… can I get over myself??)

        Bueno… I first started internally-grappling with this alternate “childhood” when I was traveling through Cambodia. A rambling excerpt from my blog is below. My blog is always the last thing I get to and is poorly written since I have to craft well-written articles for paying gigs. Basically, it’s a place to quickly throw down my thoughts (unfortunately haven’t been able to for a couple months now. arrg). I would venture to say I was less understanding at this greener time of world travel. Anyway, an excerpt after visiting the ruins of Angkor Wat in Seim Reap:

        “After three of those temples, it was time for a break. Especially after being haggled by relentless, high-pressure salesmen trying to hawk their goods off you the whole time. They were cunning. They were clever. They were mostly ages 4-15. That’s something I would like to explore further: these young kids that are learning the cunning savvy of high-pressure salesmen at such a young age. Learning that tourists are dopey targets for money, giving up so much of their normal childhood pastimes to sell, sell, sell. Russell and I tried to get some of the kids to forget their wares for just ten minutes and goof around and play with us. The best we could do is get a momentary crack of a broad smile, but then they were back to “You buy. One dollar. You buy. One dollar. You don’t buy, I cry. You buy, so I have money for my school. You buy. One dollar.” I just wanted to turn around and scream, “Give it up already!!” You say no, but they just follow and repeat themselves like only kids know how to do… you know, the old broken record routine. We did stumble upon some kids that were “salesman” but were actually taking a break to play. So we joined them. When they’re not selling, the kids are great. When they’re selling, they’re robots… or more like devils.”

        We certainly get the “Un quetzal” whine here. Sometimes I buy, sometimes I don’t. When I don’t, I just look at them lovingly and tell them I don’t need anything. No longer do I feel frustrated. I just want to understand more…

        And, Hi Marina! My what a conversation you’ve sparked here! Excellent!! What a blessing for your husband to be taught by a shaman! I’m still looking for mine… a guru as well! 😉

  • Mey

    Good Morning Marina,
    Let me reiterate, the circumstances of this child and nowhere near ideal. But if you take a closer look at your own picture you will realize the following:

    The child in question:
    1. Does not show signs of extreme malnutrition.
    2. Does not show signs of immediate stress.
    3. It is not dirty in his dress or personal hygiene in relation to his surroundings.
    4. His fingers appear to be touching the corncobs as a form of entertainment or motor-tactile experience.

    Will he get an education?
    Statistically he is likely to attend elementary school up to 4th grade or even 6th grade. During the first 10 years of his life he is likely to learn social skills, business skills and even religious guidance. If the Lord wills it he will achieve far more than you and I would ever imagine.

    Will that education be enough?
    I have met high school graduates unable to perform basic survival tasks, illiterate in terms of comprehension and crippled when faced with the challenges of life. I have also met individuals with no formal education running businesses which generate millions in terms of revenue and employ hundreds of people.

    Even in the context of extreme poverty there are different social layers and levels of care, hope and exposure. A vegetable vendor who is not a direct producer; that is they purchase wholesale to do resale is likely to generate ten to twelve thousand quetzales a year. A single person rummaging the garbage will only generate about 4,000 in recycling revenue per year. The exposure to pathogens is also quite different in each scenario.

    To the best of their ability, a parent with loving instincts will give their very best to their child. You see this in the marketplace in the garbage dump and in the ghetto.

    Poverty is not a synonym for constant unhappiness. The absence of a Mattel branded product is not the absence of toys or recreation.

    I am not taking it as a personal attack, nor am I offended by the superficiality of your assessment. I am simply amused at how your perspective lacks gradients in terms of quality of life and joy. It is black and white.

    My crib was not a box of rotten tomatoes. By the time my father purchased a plot with tomatoes I was a bit to chubby to fit in a standard size box 🙂

    I terms of my background I have experienced poverty well beyond what you see in this picture. I have also experienced prosperity far above anything I deserve or have worked for. I refuse to complain about hard times with confidence that each stage of our life is God-appointed and intended to shape our character.

    Happy Thursday to all!

  • Hi Mey!

    Good points! I do remember though, as my brother and I were taking the photo, we were commenting that the stench of rotten food was extra strong that day. So a picture says a lot, but by far the whole.
    The loving mother of this kid was ABSOLUTELY no where around and we actually stood there for over 15 minutes watching the other action around.

    He is grabbing something, which represents his motor skills? He’s human, it’s what we do.

    My superficiality and my barbie childhood, filled with mattel, is your own idea of who I am. I was brought up in communist country, Russia. I’m jew so we are considered the lowest of the low. We had nothing. I had a broken doll found in the garbage for the first 8 years of my life!

    However, I’m not competing who grew up poorer.

    Also, I am the only that has boldly admitted, is that we are immune to this! We are sitting comfortably in our houses with our computers discussing these people, like we have any idea about their lives. Or anyone’s for that fact.

    You nor I nor anyone has any idea what happens behind any closed door: Rich or poor.

    So my black and white is not so black!

    I see this and you see that. It’s the way it is, it’s called opinions.

    About education, you’re right, I have met many harvard grads that were morons, and many who never graduated highschool that were brilliant. Not at all the education I’m talking about.

    However, this is going in circles and there is no point to be made. Nor was that ever the purpose of this photo.

  • Hey Laura!

    My husband always tells me about the different plants and trees that he learned from the Maya. He once lived near a shaman and became quite close to him and learned all about different natural medicines and is really fascinated by it all as well!

    We are losing all the for sure!

  • Manolo RomEsco

    To keep changing the trajectory of the discussion I wanted to share a link to an NGO (them fighting words, Rudy?) called PENNAT that provides education to working children in Guatemala, particularly those who work in markets. I was reminded of it yesterday talking with a group of Guatemalan expats in Canada part of ASOGUATE
    PS Sorry for the commercial 😉

  • A. Roman

    I remember my mom telling me that she used to do the same with my sister while she was working on the field she would put my sister on one of those baskets, she NEVER make her work though.

  • Arturo Godoy

    I am sorry to say that initially the article promised more substance, but then I remembered that such substance is very difficult to be achieved through a blog article. I would say a proper analysis on the subject is sound precisely by the people indicated through the link Manolo posted. Laura’s approach is objective to me, and it all is more sound with Mey’s feedback..

    I cannot say that I’ve experienced extreme poverty on my own. My Mom and all the relatives on her side have. Even my dad went through it at some point in his life. They worked hard, they found ways to provide what parents do best, love. Of course it is not a perfect family, but we didn’t suffer… We all got some good amount of education, and things have been quite wonderful in terms of each of our achievements (which of course are not measured by money)… Nevertheless, I have the honor to have friends from different backgrounds, and well, I just strongly agree with Mey, Laura and Manolo…

    It is not easy to approach such a subject without having a good debate, and if the main goal of this article would have been such, then it would have been amazing. You are stating things that are culturally biased and hence all this controversy..

  • Mey

    This story grants some perspective > More Than Money

    • @Mey, you the first time I read a story similar to one you shared with us was in Canasta de cuentos mexicanos (Basket of Mexican Tales) by B. Traven, a Mexican writer from 1900s. Also, back in 1997, a good Nicaraguan friend told me exactly the same plot as More than Money, except he placed the story in Nicaragua, along the shores of the Managua Lake.

  • It does indeed, ;O)

  • Patty

    solo pasaba a decirle que siento mucho lo del robo de su cámara, la mia tambien me la robaron así que se lo que se siente, pero animo que gracias a Dios esta bien y no paso a mayores, cuidese mucho y siga adelante con este proyecto que día a día nos da un motivo para sonreir y estar orgullosos de ser chapines!