I bought a bag of granadillas, a tropical fruit that has a crispy shell and an inside that looks like brains, from a Tzotzil woman in the street near the market of San Cristobal. I paid 10 pesos (60 cents) for a big bag of perhaps ten fruit. I did not think I was making a very sought after purchase.
As I began walking back through town with my new bag of granadillas I noticed something: the little Maya kids in the street were eyeballing them with an intensity I’ve not experienced before while holding any other food. Eventually, they began walking up to me, pointing at my bag of fruit, and asking if they could have a share.
I shooed the first group away. I shooed the second group away, and another, and another.
The indigenous kids in the streets of San Cristobal are rarely beggars. But on that fine day in November, every unaccompanied child in a five block radius were descending upon my bag of granadillas. They would walk up in groups, point to my fruit, then point bag to their mouths and moan a horrid, “uno por favor” over and over again. At first, I was annoyed — I don’t give handouts to street kids, never, ever. I do not want to be part of the movement that turns poverty into a commodity.
But something was different here : these kids don’t normally bother me for money or my food. Not even candy. It was something about what I was carrying on this day in particular, it was my granadillas. By walking through the streets with a bag full of the sweet fruit, I turned myself into some sort of great proliferator of treats, and the kids, apparently, could not help themselves. After being shot down, they would gather in little groups within eyesight, transfixed upon my sack of fruit.
There is something about these granadillas that these kids love. Feeling rather in-congruent in my refusal to share my peso a piece premium fruit, I opened the bag. A little boy and his sister from across a park rose in anticipation. I shared.
And then got out of there quick, as the hoards were set to descend.