Street Children: a Disgrace for Humanity Nonexistent in Cuba

Elio Delgado Legon

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Street children in a Latin American country. The real face of capitalism. Photo taken from mundopoesía.com.

HAVANA TIMES — During a cold winter in the Southern hemisphere, in 1973, I was in Santiago de Chile and I would watch, from the window of the hotel I was staying at, a group of children huddle around a bonfire, trying to keep themselves warm, as temperatures would fall below zero degrees Celsius at night.  These were the so-called street children, who, in spite of President Salvador Allende’s efforts to improve social conditions in Chile, continued to exist.

That same year, after I’d returned to Cuba, and during the Cuban winter, I went to a friend’s birthday party in Havana, where I stayed until about midnight. To get home, I had to walk through four of Havana’s neighborhoods and it was a little chilly that night. I then remembered my visit to Santiago de Chile and the scenes I saw of street children. However, this time, in Havana, I didn’t see a single child on the street my whole way home. They were all sleeping in their homes because they had to wake up early the following day to go to school.

The memory of those two immensely different realities has come to my mind again after I saw some photographs of street children and I’ve tried to find statistics about this phenomenon in UNICEF reports and on the current situation of children in Cuba who have no family or home.

Throughout all of Cuba’s provinces, there are state-run insitutions called “homes for children without a family home”, where children and teenagers are given similar living conditions to those of a loving home. The main reasons for entering one of these centers are either being an orphan or abandoned and therefore, these children lack family love and care which they receive from center employees, who treat them as if they were their own children. These kids go to schools which correspond to the neighborhood they live in and have full access to public healthcare, just like any other Cuban child.

When they turn 18 years old, these young people leave the Home and go to live in housing given to them by the Government’s Administration Council in the municipality they live in while the Ministry of Labor has to find them a job.

That’s why there are no street children in any city here in Cuba. Meanwhile, statistics provided by UNICEF on the global phenomenon are spine chilling. Up until three years ago, reports revealed that there were between 100-150 million street children in the world. Although there haven’t been any recent reports to confirm the exact number of street children worldwide, the number must have increased drastically if we take into account the wars promoted by Imperialism, the results of terrorism and the spreading of the AIDs epidemic in Africa.

Children celebrate Fidel Castro’s 90th birthday at a home for children without a family home, in Cuba.  Photo: radiorebelde.cu.
Children celebrate Fidel Castro’s 90th birthday at a home for children without a family home, in Cuba. Photo: radiorebelde.cu.

Searching for information on UNICEF’s website, I found an advert which was asking for donations to help street children. I also saw an advert on Spanish CNN some time ago, where you could see children dressed in rags, their faces dirty and sadness in their eyes whilst they they launched the following appeal: help street children.

I don’t doubt that the intention of both of these campaigns was good; however, their direction is misguided. You can’t help street children with spare change; you help them with governments’ political will. They shouldn’t be asking for us to help street children, but asking themselves, why do street children exist?

The answer is simple: they exist and will always exist as long as neoliberal capitalism and governments who are insensitive to the evils of society exist which continue to fill the world’s streets with small children dressed in rags with a sadness in their eyes, a real disgrace for humanity.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.


36 thoughts on “Street Children: a Disgrace for Humanity Nonexistent in Cuba

  • August 30, 2016 at 5:08 pm
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    I can second that Terry, I worked in Cuba for 3 and a half years and have never been approached by a child asking for anything. Anyone can see that Cubans always keep their children well fed and well dressed above all else.

  • August 30, 2016 at 12:52 pm
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    Blue eyes are apparently superior for you. I am making factual statement. Maybe you are not approached Terry because you look even more down and out than most Cubans? Go and sit by the bronze man reading ‘Granma’ in the Plaza de Carmen, you know, the fellow just along from the group of chatting ladies. Even better, go and visit the zoo.

  • August 30, 2016 at 9:15 am
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    I second that. I remember my first visit to Cuba in 1993, during the height of the Special Period, you would encounter a couple kids a day asking for “Chickles”. But nothing like the unhealthy, desperate looking kids I’ve seen elsewhere in Latin America. As far as sleeping on the streets, yes I’ve seen that too, but it is far from common, and most of the men you see appear likely to just be sleeping off a “juma”. I see more people sleeping in the streets of Philadelphia, in the cold, than in Havana, which is incredible when you think of it.

  • August 29, 2016 at 2:34 pm
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    Carlyle, you’re so full of it your eyes are brown! I’ve been living part-time in Camagüey for several years and not ONCE have I ever been approached by a child asking me for anything! NOT ONCE! You have no credibility on this subject. Get a life, man! You’re absolutely full of it!

  • August 28, 2016 at 12:14 pm
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    As I wrote above Ken, any homeless children found on the streets are picked up by MININT. Their numbers are reflected in Elio’s article. These homeless children have been institutionalised.
    As Elio points out, “Throughout all of Cuba’s provinces there are state run institutions”
    Why are so many necessary?

  • August 28, 2016 at 7:23 am
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    I do believe that you know a great deal about Cuba. That probably explains why you were unwilling to directly challenge Elio’s contention that there are no homeless children in Cuba.

  • August 28, 2016 at 6:12 am
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    If I have a degree of blindness, then you have a degree of politically motivated delusion. That kind of insult goes nowhere and has no place here. I have an open mind and am quite happy to revise my views if you provide evidence to back up your claims that there are a huge number of children begging on every town and city in Cuba.

  • August 26, 2016 at 10:00 pm
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    I think Griffin that you intended your comment for Dani. I as recorded above, am only too aware of children begging on the streets of Cuba, it is Dani who apparently has a degree of blindness.

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