Violence in a 'world of children': Can video shock Mexico into action?

A new video that depicts kids living a gritty life in the adult world – including muggings, corruption, and drug violence – has shocked Mexicans who normally are inured to crime, a blogger writes.

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    A screen shot from the video, 'Uncomfortable Children.'
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The alarm clock beeps, and a small hand reaches over to turn it off. A kid sits up, turns on the morning news and grabs a bathrobe off an exercise machine. At the breakfast table, the front page of his newspaper reads “Alarming increase in violence in the country.”

He looks about 10 years old.

No sooner does the kid leave his house in a suit and tie than two muggers rob him at gunpoint. They take his wallet and cell phone. Despite tough language and angry looks, they, too, have cherub-cheeked baby faces.

In a country where fresh news of drug war massacres and gruesome killings barely registers on the national consciousness, the sight of children living out the daily trials and tribulations of the adult world has grabbed plenty of attention. 

These scenes open a shocking 4-minute video titled "Uncomfortable Children," that is making the rounds in Mexico via television, social media, and the Internet. Logging more than 1 million hits on YouTube within the first 48 hours of its debut, and airing on national news programs, the film depicts the country’s most intractable problems – insecurity, poverty, economic disparity, and drug trafficking – in a world made up of children. 

An organization called Our Mexico of the Future – founded by the insurance giant Grupo Nacional Provinical (GNP) and sponsored by an array of businesses and civil organizations – created the video. Mario Muñoz, the Mexican director of the 2008 film Under the Salt, directed the video. Some 250 children participated in its making.

Later in the video, there are two bureaucrats packing bundles of US currency into a briefcase and wandering into the street. They pass a protest against corruption, which is growing violent. They don’t blink an eye.

In yet another part, girls wearing the smocks of assembly plant workers, reminiscent of the factories known as maquiladoras in Mexican border towns, fling themselves against against a wall as a shootout ensues between police and gunmen.

The girls’ screams recall a real video shot in a Juárez kindergarten in which a teacher tries to keep her class calm by singing about chocolate raindrops as gunfire pops outside.

As "Uncomfortable Children" ends, one little girl speaks directly into the camera and makes an appeal to Mexico’s four presidential candidates: “Mexico has already hit bottom. Are you going for the seat, or are you going to change the future of our country?”

Two of the candidates responded on Twitter. Enrique Peña Nieto, the frontrunner and candidate for Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – the party that governed the country for 71 years in a semi-authoritarian system – wrote, “I support the message of #NiñosIncómodos. I hear the same on tour: ‘time is up.’ It’s time to renew hope and change Mexico.”

National Action Party candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota, who is running on the ruling party’s ticket, tweeted, “The video #NiñosIncómodos is a call to action that can’t go unnoticed. I accept the challenge.” Mexico’s first woman candidate also asked to meet with the organization behind the video.

Rosenda Martínez, coordinator of Our Mexico of the Future and head of GNP marketing, said the organization has been gathering “visions” from around the country through audio recordings and open-ended surveys. The video sprung from those visions.

“We want to solve the negative things that we are living in the country,” she said. “We want [the presidential candidates] to pay attention to the visions of millions of Mexicans.”

Violence, insecurity and unemployment were among the top concerns expressed in the GNP surveys.

But when it comes to Mexico’s pervasive inequality, the video contains a silent irony: GNP is owned by Mexico’s third-richest man, silver mining magnate Alberto Bailleres. Forbes recently ranked Bailleres – who is reportedly worth $16.5 billion – No. 38 on its world’s wealthiest list.

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