The picture at the foot of this post is one you may have seen before. I took it in March 2013 while visiting San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas.
The three year old’s name is Gladys. Her parents sell embroidered and woven textiles in the Santo Domingo market. She had one little brother when I took the picture last year… I caught a glimpse of him, all bundled up and laying on top of a pile of woolen blankets. By the girth of Gladys’ mama’s middle, I am sure there is another baby by now.
Look at Gladys’ eyes… full of questions. Look how she carries her blonde blue-eyed doll… cuddled in a rebozo and strapped to her back, just the way she sees her mother and other women carrying their babies.
I am often struck by the faces of young children like Gladys. They are loved, anyone can see that, but they are often left to grow up on their own. Mom and Dad are so busy trying to make enough pesos to keep their family alive, there is precious little time for really teaching their sons and daughters… The little ones learn most of what they know by observation.
What does the future hold for the children of Mexico who are born into families without means? About 70% of the country’s young families live precarious financial circumstances and the situation is not getting better for them. The divide between those who have a lot and those who have far too little continues to widen.
If children like Gladys are lucky, at about 6 years of age they start school. There, the maestros will introduce them to the Spanish language. They will learn to count and will memorize the names of Mexico’s capital cities. The learning they receive will be basic, but some of them will be even luckier and they will go on to study high school; a few of these omes will make it as far as the university. And when one child in a family succeeds in attaining a higher degree, the whole family’s lot will improve. I have seen this time and time again, and am convinced that there is nothing more important in Mexico than education.
I am returning to Chiapas this March with a group of 35 people, and I will be on the lookout for Gladys. To come along with Jorge and I, each of these travelers will donate 1,000 pesos towards helping young underprivileged women go to university. A drop in the bucket? Indeed… But the drops add up, and if enough more drops are added, the bucket will fill.