Sunday, January 06, 2008

Reyes Magos II

These are some more photos of the Reyes Magos party for the children sponsored by the Centro de Esperanza Infantil. Cruelly they make the kids wait until the very end of the party to get their new clothes, backpacks, candy etc. Most of the kids seemed very patient, I think it was just the gringo volunteers who were impatient.

This first photo is just a shot of the party before the clowns arrived showing some general mayhem.

After the games, clowns, and lunch they finally get to the gift giving portion of the day. One well-meaning volunteer accidentally closed and locked the door to the room containing all the presents. Nobody had the key so they had to call a locksmith to open it. He got that door open in less than a minute which was good for the children but really makes you contemplate the feeling of security you get when you simply lock the door.

In order to give the kids their clothes and backpacks they create a kind of cattle chute by using two rows of tables. The kids line up at one end and then one by one they are ushered down the chute. This design is to keep the children's parents at bay and away from the actual gifts. Apparently in years past the parents have gotten a bit overzealous and tried to procure more than the one child allotment of gifts. This photo shows one of the first gift recipients at the beginning of the chute. The kindergarten girls went through first and she looks so cute a bit overwhelmed.

This next shot shows the end of the chute. After they have gotten their clothes and stuffed them into their new backpacks they get a bag of candy and a bag of toiletries. You can see the mothers congregated at the end....things look a bit scary there.

The degree of poverty these kids live in was really evident to me during this party (warning depressing information ahead). Not simply by their reactions to the gifts (they were very grateful) but during the games too. As I was tying the blindfold on the children for Pin the Tail on the Donkey I noticed leaves and dirt in most of their hair and, though I'm not proud of this, I was a bit worried about the potential for lice. Without running water they obviously can't shampoo and shower everyday as we can. The skin on their faces was often very dry and ruddy, not smooth and even like a child's skin should be. Their little hands were usually dirty and the skin dry and flaky with lots of dirt under their fingernails. Some of their teeth looked like they were rotted out as well. After having been in the United States for two weeks the juxtaposition of this poverty with the massive consumerism surrounding Christmas was especially glaring. I was at the mall after Christmas (yes I know I'm contributing to the mass consumerism) and there were two young girls next to me at one point looking at purses. They couldn't have been more than 12 or 13 years old but were carrying the latest style bags, had on track suits with rhinestones on them, and were also holding some shopping bags. I listened to their conversation about which designer made this purse and which designer made that purse and heard them list all the things they wanted to buy. I was shocked because they seemed way too young to be talking like such superficial adults but I was also shocked at how much this particular scene was likely a marketers dream. Two "tweens" not only knowing the clothing designers but also placing a great deal of importance on the names and cachet each afforded. It made me sick to my stomach at the time and after this party that feeling has only grown and the ridiculousness of this disparity makes me so angry. The children at the Reyes Magos party were happy to get toothbrushes and second hand clothing, knowing who designed anything is not a luxury they will likely ever be able to afford. Unless of course the capitalists figure out how to get them enough disposable income to afford this and create a whole new market!

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