No Cover Image

Conquistadores de la Calle

Thomas A. Offit
Copyright Date: 2008
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/718470
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Conquistadores de la Calle
    Book Description:

    The first comprehensive, book-length study of its kind,Conquistadores de la Callepresents the findings of nearly two years of ethnographic research on the streets of Guatemala City, toppling conventional wisdom that the region's youth workers are solely victims, or that their labor situations are entirely the result of poverty and family breakdown.

    Documenting the voices and experiences of the city's working children, this fascinating study reveals counterintuitive motivations for those who choose to abandon schooling in favor of participating more fully in their families' economies. The processes of developing skills and planning for their social and economic futures are covered in depth, presenting evidence that many members of this population operate well above survival level and are decidedly not marginalized or members of an underclass.Conquistadores de la Callealso makes important distinctions between these young workers-a generation of Maya and Ladino boys and girls-and the homeless children or gang youth who have been so much more widely studied.

    Contextualizing a variety of data, ranging from detailed ethnographic portraits of the children's lives and the monthly income of children engaged in common street vocations (such as shining shoes or serving as porters) to educational histories and socialization activities, Thomas Offit has produced a rich trove of findings in a significant segment of urban economics that is tremendously important for anthropologists, Latin Americanists, and those interested in the lives and labors of children in the cities of the developing world.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79423-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. One INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-26)

    Rey¹ is fifteen years old, and he shines shoes for a living. He’ll also repair a broken heel, restitch a bad seam, or even change the color of your shoes if you can give them to him overnight. Rey is good at what he does. He works hard, he takes his job seriously, and he’s been doing it since he was six years old. He spends six days a week, twelve hours a day working underneath an overpass, sitting on a stool seven inches by five inches in size, about six inches off the ground. He sits there, a few...

  5. Two STREET WORK IN EL GUARDA AND 18 CALLE
    (pp. 27-59)

    Rey begins his day at five in the morning, when he wakes up; after a quick wash, he gets himself dressed and heads off to work. If the morning is not too cold, or if he wants to save a little money, he walks the three miles from the little apartment he shares with his older brother in Zone 9 to where he works in Zone 1. If he’s tired or in a hurry, he catches one of the many buses that run directly to where he works, paying either seventy-five centavos for a gypsy minibus or one quetzal twenty-five...

  6. Three JOBS AND INCOME OF CHILD STREET LABORERS
    (pp. 60-81)

    Despite the myriad national and international efforts that attempt to keep children from having to work, child street labor is an omnipresent reality in the cities of the developing world and will continue to be so. Children work on the streets because the streets are a workplace full of opportunity for children who must work. These opportunities come in many different forms, yet the most important, to both the children and their families, is the opportunity to earn incomes that will provide for the children’s and their family’s immediate and future survival.

    Pizarro, Reina, Perla, and Cortez are all child...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 82-89)
  8. Four CHILD STREET LABORERS, THEIR FAMILIES, AND THE HOUSEHOLD ECONOMY
    (pp. 90-114)

    As I have shown, child street laborers are far from being marginal earners participating in marginal economic activities. Their earnings often exceed adult wages in the formal sector, and the jobs they perform are varied and vital to the everyday provisioning of the working poor, the vast majority of Guatemala’s citizenry. While I believe anthropology needs to take the agency of children seriously, and ethnographically document how children take control of their lives, this does not mean that we need to see children as separate from their families. One of the primary misconceptions about child street laborers is that children...

  9. Five THE SOCIAL NATURE OF ECONOMIC SUCCESS
    (pp. 115-151)

    Children enter into street labor because they and their families need money. But thenecesidad(need) that brings children to work on the streets and the income that street labor provides do not entirely account for why some children choose to remain as street laborers or for what makes certain children successes on the street while others soon leave the street for other jobs and job sites. As I show below, public streets, by their very nature, are an especially social environment, and vocational success as a street vendor, porter, or shoeshine boy has as much to do with a...

  10. Six CHILD STREET LABORERS AND EDUCATION
    (pp. 152-160)

    Street labor does provide ample opportunities for an education in vending and impression management, not to mention the chance to socialize with peers and adults while at work. Yet the most damning critique of all child labor is that it denies children the opportunity for education and socialization in their most appropriate environment, namely, the formal educational system. Schools, not streets, are the appropriate venue for a child’s preparation for adult life. Virtually all of the national and international legislation meant to protect child laborers (see appendix for a summary of this legislation) specifically states that children belong in school,...

  11. Seven THE FUTURES OF CHILD STREET LABORERS
    (pp. 161-170)

    Child street laborers abandon school because of the low quality and the high cost of public schooling, and they work because they and their families need the money. National and international legislation that aims to remedy this situation misses its mark because those who draft these laws fail to consider the quality and the conditions of local schools and the dire need of these children and their families. Yet these are not the only reasons why children abandon school and go to work in the streets. The streets provide an invaluable education of their own that affords children the skills...

  12. Appendix SUMMARY OF GUATEMALAN AND INTERNATIONAL LEGISLATIVE RESPONSES TO CHILD LABOR
    (pp. 171-178)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 179-192)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 193-216)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 217-228)