The lost age of innocence

A universal epidemic.

They were five boys and one girl – all of them between 8 and 10 years old – in the cafeteria, and one of the boys was being encouraged by the others to court the girl, who was not showing any signs of being annoyed or inconvenienced; I would say that for her the situation was “normal.” The adults present in the place were not paying attention to these events, only I was asking myself what had happened to the innocence of these children.

For some time now related issues have been arousing concerns: parties for children where there are no games or children’s songs, but rather techno music and reguettón, parties which almost always end at very late hours of the night, with rum, beer, and a lot of noise.


One doesn’t have to be an expert on the subject to know that those practices lead to serious consequences for childhood. The parents who exacerbate the precociousness in their children are distorting a natural process, favouring the loss of that stage of life for them, depriving them of discovering, little by little, with their own eyes, the universe that surrounds them. They are condemning them to unhappiness.


This is a global matter, but each country contributes its own causes. In Cuba, the regimen of schools in the countryside that prevailed for some 40 years contributed to a lack of harmonic relations between the children and adolescents, who were studying in these schools, and their parents and the rest of the family. A great deal of these students started having sexual relations at a very early age and many of the questions about sex which parents are asked about were not asked. Eroticism was installed at the wrong time, banishing innocence.


Of course, the schools in the countryside weren’t the only breeding grounds for the premature sexual initiation and learning, it is also the same in the homes with a promiscuous environment, where the children have to live together with several generations, a common language is shared and there is barely any privacy. Even so, in similar cases there are parents who educate their children adequately, safeguard their decorum, a word increasingly in disuse.


It is curious how a man like José Martí,who was so ahead of his times, in a letter to the girl María Mantilla dated in Mexico in 1894, said to her: “…what is admirable here is the decorum of the women, not like over there, where men are allowed too much close and unpleasant contact.”


In numerous families it has become common for boys and girls to watch TV programmes (mainly serials and soap operas) inappropriate for their age, with which they have access to zones of reality that are still not related to them: relationship conflicts, lifestyles, the wardrobes, adult language, violence, crime, among many others.


As a consequence of following these audio visual materials, the children subsequently reproduce the language and ways of the characters, with whom they identify and which they try to imitate in the way they dress, their gestures, their behaviour.


The wardrobe is another of the elements where the differences between children, adolescents, young people and adults have been erased. Many parents introduce their children in the fashion game and the clothes and footwear competition, inoculating them with their own confusion, their bad taste. It’s worth recalling, with respect to this, another of Martí’s letters to María Mantilla:


“…. It’s like elegance, my María, which lies in good taste and not in the cost. The elegance of the wardrobe – the big and the real – lies in the pride and strength of the soul. An honourable, intelligent and free soul gives the body more elegance, and more power to women, than the most costly fashions of the shops.”


Certainly, the boys and girls who, due to the parents’ bad way of acting, due to an early pregnancy, due to economic needs, or due to other causes, abruptly skip the most beautiful stage of life, will be potential reproducers of those same behaviours with their future children.


It has been repeated a great deal that the children look more like their timesthan like their parents, and the times we are living is the principal drive of boys and girls who increasingly participate more in activities that should be exclusive to adults, but it is the responsibility of each society’s institutions, with the family at the head, to play their role as educators to preserve childhood.


I started writing this article with the story of a personal testimony, and I want to conclude with another: some three months ago, while traveling on a bus, I saw a boy who was around seven years old who, with a cell phone in his hand, was dancing and writhing in his seat, following the rhythm of a reguettón coming from his telephone, and I felt sorry for that boy, whose taste was already deformed at such an early age, and I remembered one of Martí’s letters to María Mantilla, the one that says:


“When I return I will know if you have loved me, because of the useful and fine music you have learned by then: music that you express and feel, now hollow and flamboyant: music in which a people, or an entire man, a new and superior man, is seen. Let common people have their bit of common music, because it is a sin in this world to have one’s head a bit higher than the others, and one must speak the language of all, even if it is base, so that they don’t have to pay too dearly for the superiority. But for oneself, inside oneself, in the freedom of the house, the pure and high.” (2015)



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