Seeing Mexico’s Street Children


| November-December 2009

An unforgettable part of Mexico City’s chaotic milieu is its omnipresent street children, who sell candy, juggle, and implore passersby for change. Federal authorities have proposed a nationwide “solution” that sounds both ominously familiar and dubious in its intentions.

“A new law proposes a ‘ban’ on street children,” reports the August 2009 issue of U.S. Catholic , “requiring municipal officials to find a safe refuge via social service agencies for these children or face fines of $420 per child left unattended.”

The magazine points out that the things some street children do to survive—notably begging and stealing—make them irritants to local shopkeepers and police, and suggests that the “ban” may be “a familiar effort to simply, sometimes ruthlessly, remove the problem from view.” Street children, it notes, have been summarily executed in Guatemala, Brazil, the Philippines, and other nations, according to Human Rights Watch.

U.S. Catholic proposes responding more practically to the needs of abandoned children—with “clothing and cleanliness, safety and shelter, adequate nutrition”—and reminds U.S. citizens that they have a role: The United States is among the nations that signed on to the U.N.’s Millennium Challenge Project to cut “extreme” world poverty in half by 2015.