Commentary

A free generation ” The generation X “

My friends and I used to wonder why people referred to us in the media as generation X. Some said it was because we were young that we did not know where we were from and where we were going, that we did not know what we wanted in life.

In fact, the term Generation X was coined by photographer and journalist Robert Capa in the early 1950s. He later used it as a title for a photographic essay on young men and women who grew up after the Second World War.

This name was popularized by the Canadian writer Douglas Coupland who, in a novel, described young adults and their lifestyles in the late 1980s.

We were born between the years 1970 and 1987.  We are generation X, a generation full of changes. We lived a past full of so innocence and the beginning of life with technology.

New Generation X (Photo: Walter Coraza)
New Generation X (Photo: Walter Coraza)

Who does not remember playing “kill people” in the streets and during school playtime–we used a ball to “kill” people who were trying to escape. We girls also played the famous “Yajes,” or “Jacks” until our hands would hurt,then we would switch to our other hand.  Our parents told us loudly, “Do not play yajes, your handwriting will be bad”.  They yelled at the boys “do not play marbles, your handwriting will look bad.” When our hands looked like toad’s skin, they reproached us saying “surely they have played in the dirt.”.

What were these famous games that kept us so entertained?

Kill people. Your name says it all. Two players, one at one end and another at the other end, would “kill” us, hit us with a ball. We were in between them. Even if we caught the ball we were dead. Many times the ball would hit you in the face so hard, but instead of crying from the pain, you laughed, it was such an adrenaline high and filled you with so much feeling that you managed to dodge the balls and become the savior of all the dead.

The famous escondidas (hide and go seek) was almost always played at night. Only a few people had black and white television sets and there was almost no color. As a result, we distracted ourselves from boredom by playing hide and seek. In order to choose who would be the one counting while the others hide, we relied on the “fu-man-chu”. It consisted in showing the palm of the hand or the reverse. The one whose hand was in a different position from the others was it. When there were only two players, we used the “yan-quen-po”—rock, paper, scissors. The one that lost was the one that looked for the other. We hid well and sometimes we changed clothes to confuse the seeker. When he or she was wrong when they said our name, we would run out screaming “plancha quemada” (burnt iron).  Then we all left with to hide again.

For arroz con leche (rice with milk), we made a circle and we sang: “rice with milk, I want to marry a lady from Portugal. This one, yes. She is the lady I will marry”. Then you had to run to hug somebody. If you were left alone, everyone took you as single and you were out of the game.

In the famous quarters, two to more players could play. We used a coin. One would throw it first and the other, if he wanted to win, he had to throw the coin at least such a distance that his hand reaches a quarter of the other player’s coin.  If you won, you got their coin. It usually was 10 cents or 20 cents.

So many wonderful games filled our childhood. Other things also

set us apart from today’s youth. Who of that generation does not remember recording songs from the radio in cassettes. (Who could forget that sometimes we could not even talk while recording lest we capture our own voices on top of the song.) And, we recorded videos with VHS that were big as boxes.

When we had homework we went to the library. While looking for information we spent hours reading.

And there were TV programs such as Children’s Carousel, Super Champions, Candy, Marco Looking for his Mom, Goku. I remember that my brothers and I would clean the house quickly and do our homework I order to watch these programs.

We were the generation in which your father or your mother just needed to give you a look and you would duck your head and start to tremble with fear. That look that meant “now you will see.”

We are the generation that when mama said “go to the store” giving you money and a cloth bag she had sewed herself, you had to obey immediately. If not, you would get hit with a belt. When you did something wrong, mama or papa chased you and you ran in zig-zag so that the sandal, the stone or the crack of wood would not reach you.

We were also the first generation who played with video games, went to amusement parks and saw color cartoons.

We learned to use computers before our parents and grandparents,

We played games such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tetris, Mario Bros. We saw the ads of the first cellular phone (that looked like a brick) and we believed that the Internet would bring a free world.

We grew up listening to Michael Jackson, Madonna, Locomotion, Prisoners, Magneto. We were the generation that could buy 20 bread rolls with 1.00 new Sol coin.

Looking back, it is hard to believe we are alive. We rode in cars without back seatbelts, without special child seats and without air-bags. We made trips 10-12 hours long and we did not suffer from the syndrome of the tourist class. We did not have gates with protective covers, closets, or medicine bottles with a childproof lids.

We had no cell phones. We went to class loaded with books and notebooks, all in a backpack or briefcase that rarely had reinforcement for the shoulders or much less, wheels. How many of us had to pick our school supplies up from the ground when our backpack broke?

We used to eat choco-pilas of chocolate, so delicious that they left our teeth brown; the famous cocadas with bread; we sucked on the Martians of different flavors; we shared bottles of drinks and no one was afraid of catching anything. We only feared getting lice and that was solved by washing the head with hot vinegar. (Sometimes it was detected by the teacher who checked us with a pencil). We prayed to catch the flu, chickenpox, and measles our best friends had to enjoy a “holiday.”

We did not have PlayStation. There were not 99 TV channels, flat screens, surround sound, mp3s, iPods, computers, nor the Internet, but we had a great time throwing water balloons during carnivals, and we never heard about global warming.

It was not necessary to have Facebook, Twitter, or even to know they existed. It was enough to make our group of friends hiss or scream outside the house, in the middle of the street, so that the whole block left their homes to see what was wrong.

We had nicknames like Boring, Chinese, Skinny, Freckles, Black, or things like that, but we all belonged to the same group. By the nickname we knew immediately who each person was.

We were responsible for our actions and we lived their consequences. There was no one to solve that for us. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned to grow with it all.

Today we have so much technology. Though it should mean an advance, it seems to be a setback. Most people no longer read. They just enter the internet and copy the first thing they find; they then print it and present it to their teachers. We go to a party, now and everyone texts those who did not come to the party instead of talking to those present. Children are stuck to the TV or Tablet.

Young people now want to wear name brand clothes. If they do not have name brand school supplies, kids do not want to go to school. They threaten their parents if they do not get an allowance; they do not attend classes. Young people deceive their parents and go partying. They do not go to sleep at home. Young people and children do not obey their parents. Parents have lost their authority. They are more dedicated to producing money and they do not dedicate time to their children. People seem to have lost values and respect for the elderly.

Let us remember the good things of life: the greatness of simple things. Let us give our children values. We need to give them time and love. We do not need superficialities, name brand clothing, etc. We should remember how to be children, but above all, how to be free.

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