The Colors of Hope / Los Colores de la Esperanza
Ending Child Labor in the Americas / Fin al trabajo infantil en las Américas
In 1937, the famous Spanish poet and playwright Miguel Hernández wrote a haunting poem about a child laborer called El Niño Yuntero in which he painted a grim picture of child labor and of the child’s grey life, su vivir ceniciento. It has been over seventy years since Hernández provided such a vivid depiction of the harm caused by child labor and called for action against it:
¿Quién salvará a este chiquillo, menor que un grano de avena?
¿De dónde saldrá el martillo verdugo de esta cadena?
(Who will save this child, smaller than an oat grain?
From where will come the hammer that will break the chain?)
The International Labor Organization estimates that 5.7 million children were economically active in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available. Many of these children work in some of the worst forms of child labor such as hazardous mining and agriculture, forced labor, exploitive domestic work in third party homes, commercial sexual exploitation, and involvement in armed conflict. Such work precludes or negatively affects their participation in education and limits their ability to access more highly skilled jobs as adults.
Since 1995, the United States Department of Llabor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs has been at the forefront of actions to “break the chain” of child labor in the Americas by funding projects that remove children from exploitive work and provide them instead with educational opportunties. Since that time, DOL has invested close to $150 million on 54 projects that combat exploitive child labor in 19 countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Together, these projects have withdrawn and prevented over 200,000 children from exploitive labor. This exhibit presents artwork and letters produced by children removed from exploitive labor in various countries in this region as a direct result of DOL-funded projects. The exhibit shows how the grey lives of working children are being transformed into colores de la esperanza, the colors of hope.
El Niño Yuntero
Carne de yugo, ha nacido
Nace, como la herramienta,
Entre estiércol puro y vivo
Empieza a sentir, y siente
Contar sus años no sabe,
Trabaja, y mientras trabaja
A fuerza de golpes, fuerte,
Cada nuevo día es
Y como raíz se hunde
Me duele este niño hambriento
Le veo arar los rastrojos,
Me da su arado en el pecho,
¿Quién salvará a este chiquillo
Miguel Hernández, 1937