Tag Archives: children poverty

Of children of poverty in Cochabamba: shoe-shining and glue-sniffing

14 Jul

I frequent restaurants and cafés in Cochabamba daily, out of city boredom.  During each stop, a stream of people hawking goods approaches–more so than any other city I’ve to in S.America so far–usually it’s children looking like they came from the factories of Oliver Twist who sell flowers or candy or shoe-shining services and sometimes it’s Argentinian hippies selling beads.  I’m good at saying no, because I know it’ll only do temporary good, but it’s hard when children are involved.  There is one kid who I encounter everyday–he’s quite hard-working, doing a loop of all the tourist areas and insisting on shining a gringo’s tennis shoes, containing 0% leather, or the strap of a sandal.  I tell him that I’m wearing flip-flops and he asks me to buy him dinner.  I tell him, perhaps another day, and he asks exactly when.  I tell him about my policy but offer to help with homework instead.  He tells me sure but he never did bring his homework.  I see him again and he listens to my mp3 player for a while.  Another girl, perhaps 8, approaches, jealous of his relationship with me, and demands to know how I know him.  “Are you guys friends?” she asks.  “I help him with his homework.  I can help you too” I offer but she wanders away.  He asks me for my mp3 player as a gift and I explain my policy again.  I’m not sure if he really does understand and sometimes I feel as if I should buy him dinner to encourage him, maybe he really is hungry.  His mother works during the day and I wonder if she is feeding him.  I hear from other Cochabambinos that the kids’ families are really not at bottom-of-the-barrel poverty, their parents make the children work and use the money sometimes to drink or for other purposes.

Also existent in Cochabamba but not in La Paz are children addicted to glue.  Glue is cheap.  They live under the bridge and beg people in the streets for money.  I got approached today by one, who had the giddy insanity of Gollum.  I wish there was perhaps a rehab clinic available in Cocha or maybe a law prohibiting sale of glue to minors or even an informal movement of socially-conscious vendors who refuse to sell glue to kids who look supernaturally happy.