A quick background (well it was supposed to be). I am hounded by children trying to sell me candy between 5-10 times a day. They will approach you hundreds of different ways, follow you and anything else they can think of to get you to buy candy. I still haven't bought any because, besides chocolate, I don't really like candy. Lately I have been asking several Peruvians (taxi drivers, people in the combis, at restaurants and the Peruvians we know) and they tend to say if you want to buy some, buy some. If not, don't. I could happily live with this except in the process I found out more about the process.
Apparently it's usually the parents who send the kids out to sell the candy for them (which I had guessed) but where everything gets messy is that I've heard a couple times that some parents will beat the kid if they don't return with 10-15 soles ($3-$5). But is the beating so out of line when kids get beaten in this culture as standard form of punishment for any little thing?
In general I really don't like begging but even more so I hate the idea that this kid's parents are sending him out to make money for them, with physical abuse as the motivation, and I don't want to support that kind of system. I also hate the fact that when a taxi, candy seller, restaurant hostess or whoever else might be selling something sees me they come running because I'm white and don't want to encourage this stereotype. I've reached a place with taxis that when they quote me too high of a price I won't bargain because an additional 30-50 cents from me could mean a 10% increase in income that day for the cab driver. But I still don't know what to do with the candy kids.
So as I walked by this particular boy I realized that there were hundreds of thoughts and feelings related to begging and money here that I just don't have a nice little category to put them in. Was this boy crying as a manipulation to get people to stop and buy candy? Was he crying because he hadn't sold enough and was about to get beaten? Was he crying because he had already been beaten and was sent back out until he made enough? Or did the crying have nothing to do with selling candy?
The rest of the night and this morning I haven't been able to shake this. I didn't stop, I didn't give him money. Two dollars couldn't have changed the system, but could it have allowed this boy to wake up today without any bruises? And is that enough? If so, just how many kids do I buy candy from? And does it matter if I am just getting scammed?
Cold showers, bad food, rain, clouds, no privacy, bad lighting, those are the easy parts of living here. This boy is where everything falls apart.