A few years ago, I was walking around Roma Norte of Mexico City.
After getting some chicken flautas and enjoying some black iced tea, I figured it was time to go back home.
At the time, if I remember right, I think I was living by Metro Juanacatlan area?
So as I was walking back to the metro station, I happen to see some homeless girl laying face down onto a small piece of cardboard on hot cement on a sunny day.
With dozens and probably over a hundred people or so walking past her without a car in the world.
Some old local man though stopped and looked at her.
Looked at me as I stopped too with a shocked face.
Looked back at her.
She seemed to be all alone.
Where were her parents?
But here she was, on a hot day, just laying face first onto the ground all alone in the afternoon.
And she couldn’t have been older than 10 at most.
With 10 probably being generous for her age if I had to guess looking back at it.
And, over the years of living in Latin America more broadly, I have seen my fair share of homeless children in the street begging.
Another sad incident was when I lived by El Centro of Mexico City almost a year ago walking at around 2 AM to get some street tacos about 10 minutes walking distance away.
Along the walk, I saw some homeless child all by herself crying while sitting down on the ground with her back against some building.
Most cases are not as sad as either of the last two though.
In most cases, you’ll find some child running up to you begging for money or trying to sell you some small piece of candy usually.
They usually aren’t too pushy about it either.
Except one time by a bar in Mexico City when a chubby teenager asked me for money and I gave him roughly 5 pesos more or less. Which is all I had as I had to save the rest of my coins to get my girlfriend and I back home on the metro. When he saw my gringo ass and demanded more, I contemplated snatching the coin from his hand for being demanding and not being happy with what a typical local would give anyhow. My then girlfriend found his insistency to be funny though.
Still, I don’t find most homeless adolescents and kids to be rude little jerks demanding “dollars” from me as a few would ask for specifically.
Instead, most are pretty chill.
Money or no money…
They carry on.
And are happy with what you can give in the moment.
Plus, being honest, you do feel bad for them to a degree.
After all, among all of the homeless out there in the world, there are groups we always feel more sympathy for.
Be it the homeless veterans in the US (of which I’ve never noticed in Mexico).
To homeless children.
Or single mothers walking around with children in their arms.
Maybe an elderly person who can’t really work anymore outside of maybe a job packing bags in a Walmart?
Or someone who is very physically disabled in some obvious manner.
The last two groups, from my observations, seem to pull the heart strings better on the local Mexicans than about anyone else.
Even more than the homeless children who, to me personally, pull enough heart strings easily enough to offer a few coins usually.
To this day, the person begging who has managed to get the most out of me was some young kid in his 20s seemingly who had a baby duck in a Starbucks asking for money to take care of some medical treatment for the duck.
Regardless of the need for any treatment, getting to see a duck in a café was cool enough.
So I offered the kid about 20 pesos or a buck (which, to outsiders, might not seem like much but is more than what most locals would offer anyhow).
His duck was pretty fucking cool.
Regardless, in most other cases, even with homeless children, I might offer 10 pesos at most.
But, oddly enough, not all of the locals agree on helping the seemingly homeless children.
Which is the group of homeless people that we’ll be discussing briefly here.
Should you give them money?
As I said, not every local agrees!
From my observations, it seems the locals are much, much more critical of giving money to them than the naïve foreigners who just showed up yesterday.
Still, even though I get the reasons for why the locals don’t want to give money to them, I still do sometimes because they assumingly come from poor backgrounds with not much food on the table anyhow.
So why not offer a few pesos?
But, to be fair, maybe I’m naïve here.
Maybe the locals know how these kids are actually secretly living in mansions with Lamborghinis.
But, after doing my research, let me bring up just some of the issues and the nature of how some of this begging occurs.
No Pesos for the Children?
Well, there seem to be a few reasons for why some locals in Latin America have difficulty giving pesos for the children (Mexico specifically that I’m looking at as an example).
Let’s first cover the obvious ones that exist anywhere in the world before getting to the more interesting information.
First, there’s the obvious issue that you can’t save the whole world.
Not every local in Latin America and not every foreigner neither is loaded with cash.
When you got a shit ton of people begging for money that you come across on a monthly basis, you obviously can’t offer money to all of them.
So you choose who to give money to depending on the opportunity, your capability and desire to do so.
Second, you obviously do have some people who just look down on poor and homeless people in general. That’s not the main reason against giving money to specifically homeless children but homeless people in general.
Third, you have the usual cases of people preferring to give food instead of money like anywhere else in the world.
Now let’s move onto other more important issues related to all of this.
Encouraging Bad Family Practices
I’ve heard some folks give the complaint that giving money encourages bad family practices at home when you are helping a kid.
Basically, the logic stems from the idea that these kids are being used as “child labor” to bring an extra income for the family.
Which, on the surface, unless the kid lost his parents, is true.
And so, by giving money to them, you only encourage parents to use their kids more for this purpose.
It probably does work more anyhow for the kids to beg than for grown adults since they more easily pull on heart strings.
On top of that, I’ve heard some say that the kids begging for money actually make more in a month than what the parents do.
Therefore, in the eyes of a few I’ve spoken with, it can somehow discourage the parents themselves from getting a real job.
Not sure how many parents actually make enough off their kids doing that but that’s all I’ve heard from a few folks.
True? You be the judge.
But the logic behind the “child labor” idea is pretty solid since, right in front of your eyes, you see the kids working outside begging for money from one person to the next.
By Insurgentes metro area of Mexico City in Rosa neighborhood, I’ve seen a group of kids go from restaurant to restaurant daily begging for money.
The usual ones they prefer are places like Subway, Dominos, this one taco place I like, etc.
And, if you stay at any of these places long enough while eating, you’ll notice them come back soon enough as they do their rounds and repeat.
Children Being Trafficked?
Next, you have the argument that some of these kids are being trafficked and are not actually being made to beg by their parents.
That they were kidnapped by someone and forced to beg on the street by that person.
As you can read in this article here, the image of some blonde child in Mexico went viral and plenty of people suspected the child to be trafficked.
Perhaps in part because how could a child so white looking be from a poor family?
Well, I think that logic to be retarded from the locals because there are poor white people everywhere in the world.
And Mexico has plenty of white locals.
Plus, on top of that, some would argue that the image of a poor white child might provoke more emotion than one of more indigenous ancestry.
Still, from what I could tell in the story here, they questioned the parents and supposedly the child wasn’t trafficked?
Anyhow, it’s a concern some have regarding homeless children begging.
And, as you can read in this article here, it’s even made international news with this interesting quote:
“A scandal involving the abduction and exploitation of young children in a colonial Mexican city popular with tourists widened Wednesday when prosecutors released additional evidence that an adult apparently used other children to help kidnap a missing 2-year-old boy.”
Then you have these interesting paragraphs here…
“The Chiapas state prosecutors’ office said in a statement the children “were forced through physical and psychological violence to sell handicrafts in the center of the city,” adding the kids showed signs of “malnutrition and precarious conditions.”
According to video presented by the prosecutors, many of them slept on what appeared to be sheets of cardboard and blankets on a cement floor. Three other women have been detained in that case and may face human trafficking and forced labor charges.”
Makes me wonder if that little girl I mentioned way before was a victim of such a thing since, in her case, she was sleeping on a piece of cardboard on the cement.
Along those lines, I’ve had others told me that even the poor single mothers you see walking in the streets carrying a baby in their arms or some child by their side is not actually theirs.
In which, according to what I’ve been told, the child or baby is rented out by some mafia to help the women pull on the heart strings and make more money.
You even have this article by the Mazatlan Post here that goes into the issue about why these babies are rented out and even drugged here:
“The infants are drugged for two reasons – it makes adult beggar’s work easier, and also succeeds to earn from the sympathy of unsuspecting public. In such cases, the adult beggar is not even the actual parent of the child, the child is in fact hired – rented on a day to day basis. It was shocking to learn that the infants were given doses of depressants like cough syrups, sleeping tablets and even injected with narcotic substances.
The adult beggars take these drugged babies in alms and carry out their begging business throughout the day, under hot sun and extreme weather. Under the influence of these drugs, the children sleep for days and end up dying sometimes.”
The article goes on explaining how, by giving money to these mothers or children, you are only encouraging the problem by motivating this activity to keep happening.
In which more children are trafficked for this purpose and kept away from a brighter future in school.
With more years growing up with exposure to a life of begging and ultimately stealing down the road.
Having said all of that, there is another interesting element to all of this that has been hinted at before.
Anyway, here's a video in Spanish of someone giving their own thoughts regarding the validity of the issue of children being rented.
Tourists Easier to Target?
To be fair, it’s not just tourists who give money to the homeless children and begging women with babies in hands.
A few days ago, I was on the metro heading to Balderas station in Mexico City and saw some lady with a baby in hand begging for money.
Her story being that she needs money to give the kid very important medicine.
No other obvious gringos on the train.
Various folks giving her money no problem.
Made more money than a typical beggar I see on the metro usually in just a minute or two.
Anyhow, you do have, for obvious reasons, more suspicious Mexicans than foreign tourists on this issue.
Largely because those who live here are more likely to have heard all of the issues brought up in this article.
Whereas, for the foreign tourist, it’s common for some of them to look down on the homeless child as an example of “how poor Mexicans seem to be” and want to offer maybe 10 bucks.
Which isn’t much to them necessarily while on their vacation.
There’s this interesting article here that goes into just that detailing an example of how some homeless child pulling a performance in the street managed to get the attention of a handful of tourists in Tijuana.
In the article, they interview a 12 year old boy named Pedro who performs in the street for money and hoping to get some USD from the tourists.
All the while being on the lookout for the police who are apparently trying to crack down on this.
Who, in his words, is doing this to make extra money for his mom.
And, as the article goes on, it’s a good example also of the poverty many face in Mexico and the circumstances many have to take to earn money.
Among other issues it addresses that you can read here.
Well, after looking into all of that, it does make me more doubtful about giving money to homeless children.
After all, I definitely don’t want to contribute to human trafficking and forced begging.
Though, as this article points out here, it’s not just children who are forced into trafficking at times but also very old adults.
Like, as that article shows, even a 92 year old woman was forced into begging by others in Mexico.
And, more often than not, when people discuss the trafficking reason for why they don’t give to kids…
In my experience, these same folks usually mention how they will give something to very old people who can’t work on the other hand.
Even though some could be forced into begging also?
Still, to be fair, I don’t know which group is more likely to be forced into it but I imagine children.
On the other hand, I also ask myself how many of the children are trafficked?
Out of all of the ones you see in the street, is it a majority?
I have no idea.
If it wasn’t a majority or not too significant of a percentage, then I wouldn’t mind as much giving a few pesos to homeless children.
If they live with their parents and all.
Yes, you can still see it as child labor and giving money encourages the practice…
But, without the money, is the kid going to go hungry?
And he’s bringing it back to his actual family if he’s not trafficked.
If the parents (or single parent) simply isn’t doing well to bring enough money home, then I kinda do lean towards maybe helping out a little bit in that case.
Not so much if the kid is being trafficked obviously.
Still, on that note, how can we know if the kid is an actual trafficking victim or going home to a real family?
I have no idea.
No real way to know, I suppose.
Which, in that case, I can get the extra hesitancy to offer any money.
Food at least?
Well, that’s reasonable.
Though, from what I read online, supposedly some of the kids throw the food away if you hand them some.
But not every homeless person does!
When I was in Subway years ago in Mexico City, some homeless guy walked into the store asking for money.
I said I didn’t have any left (not any peso coins, only larger bills).
He then asked if he could finish my sandwich since it was clear that I finished most of it and wasn’t going to eat the rest.
So I said sure.
He took it and walked off eating it.
So, if it is food, I wouldn’t mind giving some to homeless children even if they are trafficked.
They aren’t going to sell it and they probably are hungry.
And them eating it isn’t putting any profits into the criminals who traffic them.
Anyhow, doing this minor research into the issue definitely opened my eyes into another perspective on this topic.
Finally, here’s a video of a child singing for money.
Got any comments yourself? Drop them below in the comment section.
Follow my Twitter here.
And thanks for reading.