Bogota, the capital of Colombia, which perches on the western shoulder of the South American continent, is renowned for its delicious pastries.
Bogota, the capital of Colombia, which perches on the western shoulder of the South American continent, is renowned for its delicious pastries. These are the part of the high-calorie diet for the well-to-do. Poverty has another, and uglier, face. Such as scrawny children scavenging among the city's garbage dumps for scraps of food to help keep their families alive.
SYNOPSIS: The children live in shanty towns near Bogota. Most of their parents left the countryside to come to the city seeking a new life. But only a few of them find a job.
Their children are born into crushing poverty. They learn to survive as best they can. Their supermarket has to be the garbage dump, and their fellow shoppers, the city's stray dogs.
Hunger dulls the brain but sharpens the instinct for survival. If the trash heap can't yield enough food or junk, other ways exist to wheedle goods and money.
Urchins are found in poor places all over the world, but Bogota has its own special type-the gamines. These are gangs of scruffy boys with knowing eyes. They get by in an Oliver Twist world of a petty crime, often guided and watched over by a Fagin-style leader.
Their harsh world is a moral twilight zone but has its own rough-hewn code. And the gamines have the pride of the true professional: they are perhaps the most adroit pickpockets in the world. They have to be deft and nimble-like so many Spanish-speaking Artful Dodgers -- to stay in circulation.
Bogota is a noted cultural and manufacturing centre. But this means nothing to the gamin hunched over his pushcart, trudging and city streets, day after day, on the hard edge of survival, where he his fated to remain.