Children Struggling for Pesos

Regina Cano

Cuban girl.  Photo: Caridad
Cuban girl. Photo: Caridad

I wrote the previous article (A Kids Passion) with the intention of telling a story about the same topic as this, but from a different angle.  I have to admit that it was such a shame seeing the boy I described earlier dedicating so much anguish and adrenaline to entertainment that I felt bad about criticizing him.

Ah, children! – those sponges, those pliable beings so predisposed to change.

We come into this life without fear, frustration, violence, gods or language; and from observation we imitate our first contacts, which results in self-reflection – including the recognition of the need for escape.

Perhaps above all else there is fantasy, to nourish those who work so arduously in this world. For many children, fantasy also becomes a salvation, because it helps them balance their environment and enter a world parallel to that of adults, of whom they are generally the victims and from whom they sometimes suffer their irresponsibility.

In my country, children are similar to others on the planet, and they too have been immersed in the same transformations of our social environment.

And though Cuban parents have sacrificed a great deal over the past 15 years so that their children do not lack food, shoes, clothes, snacks, school supplies or even toys, it’s never enough to satisfy the “needs” created by others, sometimes determined by commerce and the entertainment industry.

In this way, what had been simple bartering in the past has turned into -due to the growing forces of supply and demand in these hard times- a vast market where everything has a monetary value.  This has reached the point that this market mentality is used as a type of reference even when money is not involved, resulting in tremendous recycling for the satisfaction of all.

In this current market, 10 marbles cost a peso, and 100 go for 30 or 40 pesos; a set of 34 cards costs 50 pesos, and each one of them has a value that when summed surpasses that amount.  Likewise, skates, spinning tops and kites are placed on the list according to season and region – even chewing gum and candy.

For older kids, this business includes pigeons, skateboards, boxes of ball-bearings, MP3s, flash memoirs, video games and who knows what else.

And although some of these articles go out of style -from becoming old hat or from the constant drive of technology that is gradually winning over this country (which for a long time was restricted by a narrow channel for the import of many goods)- the market of buying and selling for and among minors is invariably profitable.

This is because kids attain what they want, materially speaking.  But in the end, for a future society this will leave a balance accumulated over a long anguishing road, one shaped by the impact of well or ill-considered strategies.

Perhaps this makes us better merchants, but with much less happiness in the enjoyment for small things, without certain responsibilities, which at this age should be given to kids.