The law has come to be called la Ley Pulpín – the “Pulpín Law” – a slang word derived from a juicebox company, which has come to stand for something to the effect of “dumb kid”. News reports assert it was passed quietly, and in a rush, which make its critics assume it was a done deal before it was even put to a vote. The youth protesting the law say they see right through it, and refused to be taken advantage of—and the strength of the multi-faceted movement, which demanded the law be repealed, seems to have produced this extra Monday-morning legislative session.
Eduardo calls Perú a nation that contains many nations; a pluricultural country. This makes it impossible, he echoes, to create a law like this that would truly benefit everyone. He talks about life in many of Perú’s rural communities, especially in the Andean regions where a collective work practice known as the minga (or mink’a in Quechua) is a fundamental part of cultural education. In many communities throughout Perú, and other parts of South America, families work on one another’s farms to help the whole community thrive—and children are a part of this work as well. Children come of age in their culture by participating in the planting and harvesting of crops, as well as in festivals and celebrations. For children in these contexts, work is an essential part of their formation, as well as the transmission of culture from one generation to the next. This example is instructive not only in the specificity of its relationship to the new law, but in its acknowledgement of the many realities in a single country. Official figures say there are 3 million working children in Perú—but it is impossible to assign them all a single status. Some work with their families in the minga; others work in illegal mines, where they are exposed to harsh chemicals and other dangers without being fully aware of them; still others juggle on street corners; while others help out in their family’s businesses.
The critics of the Ley Pulpín demand they be treated with dignity and respect despite their age. Eduardo’s first critique of the Ley Pulpín was, though it will affect 18-24 year olds, none of them were consulted. Similarly, INFANT, MNNATSOP, and other related organized youth groups, demand for children’s opinions to be heard, and taken into account—especially in political decisions that affect them directly. They are working toward a different conception of childhood—one that is open to the many realities of children in this pluricultural nation. INFANT is not a political organization, Eduardo explains. Their primary focus is to train young people to organize around their rights and the development of their communities. And those from INFANT who participated in the march went as individuals, not as representatives of the organization. But Eduardo believes that the protagonismo fostered by INFANT’s education and training has helped shaped the political engagement of so many young Peruvians—many of whom have grown, and are now walking alongside one another, demanding that their rights remain in tact.