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Conquistadores de la Calle

Child Street Labor in Guatemala City

By Thomas A. Offit

Publication Year: 2008

The first comprehensive, book-length study of its kind, Conquistadores de la Calle presents 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 Calle also 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.

Published by: University of Texas Press

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. ix-xi

Anyone working on a monograph is indebted to many people for support that varies from continuous to occasional, from emotional to fi nancial. I am no exception, and indeed have relied upon the support of too many people to adequately name them all in this short space, though I shall give it a go. ...

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One. INTRODUCTION

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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. ...

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Two. STREET WORK IN EL GUARDA AND 18 CALLE

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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. ...

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Three. JOBS AND INCOME OF CHILD STREET LABORERS

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pp. 60-89

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. ...

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Four. CHILD STREET LABORERS, THEIR FAMILIES, AND THE HOUSEHOLD ECONOMY

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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. ...

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Five. THE SOCIAL NATURE OF ECONOMIC SUCCESS

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pp. 115-151

Children enter into street labor because they and their families need money. But the necesidad (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 ...

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Six. CHILD STREET LABORERS AND EDUCATION

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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, ...

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Seven. THE FUTURES OF CHILD STREET LABORERS

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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 ...

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Appendix. SUMMARY OF GUATEMALAN AND INTERNATIONAL LEGISLATIVE RESPONSES TO CHILD LABOR

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pp. 171-178

Governments and private organizations throughout the world have at varying times and to varying degrees attempted to eradicate child labor through the use of legislation. The most recent efforts toward this end have come from the International Labour Organization (ILO). ...

NOTES

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pp. 179-192

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 193-216

INDEX

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pp. 217-228


E-ISBN-13: 9780292794238
E-ISBN-10: 0292794231
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292718470
Print-ISBN-10: 0292718470

Page Count: 244
Illustrations: 9 halftones, 3 maps, 9 tables
Publication Year: 2008