Thursday, 25 March 2010

POV: Children Should Never Go Hungry

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy -All Rights Reserved

The Zocalo, with its cultural activities, is the very heart of Oaxaca, and is a daily magnet for locals and tourists alike. It also attracts vendors of various trinkets, as well as poor children (all of them indigenous...possibly Zapotecs) who attempt to make a few pesos by selling chewing gum. Approaching the restaurants' tables occupied by tourists, these children sometimes shyly ask for left-overs. In fact, that's what three little girls did one evening. We gladly gave them whatever was on our table, and one of us even asked our waiter for a bag to give them half her pizza.

During a festive Guelguetza dance festival of schoolchildren, I looked beyond the colors, music, laughter and frenetic motion, and at the periphery of the stage, saw a Zapotec boy with arms outstretched in askance for fruits from one of the young dancers.

You see, after each dance the young dancers would reach into baskets of fruits, flowers and vegetables, and toss them to an appreciative audience. The Zapotec boy was in that audience, and wanted fruit. Mind you, not for keepsake as perhaps the families wanted, but to eat. However, I also noticed he never reached into the basket full of apricots just inches from him...no, that would be stealing. He just wanted the young dancer to give him one...and he got a fruit.

Not only was I sobered at this sight, but I also read in these unfortunate children's eyes an uncomprehending acceptance that they would never take part in an organized Guelaguetza dance such as the one they were witnessing. I also sensed that they understood that it was so because they were poor and were racially different. They would never wear the colorful Guelaguetza costumes. All this boy could muster was an old over sized baseball cap, and a dirty shirt.

No child should go hungry and no child should beg for food. Ever.