Commentary

Working for Free in the Jungle, a Taxi Story

A taxi ride, the site of stories (David Knowlton)

The taxi spun around the corner in thick traffic and merged, only to stop at a red light. The driver, a young man, maybe 22 years old started telling me a story,

“When I was ten years old, my brother who was seventeen and I went to work the coffee harvest down in the jungle. For six months we worked without pay. The boss gave us food and we worked.

“We were worried about not getting paid and so my brother approached the boss to ask about our wages.

“He pulled a pistol on my brother and said he could kill him and that he should not make problems.

“When the man’s attention wavered my brother grabbed the pistol and hit him on the head with the butt. We fled.

“For six months we worked for free, but we got away alive. In the jungle, they sometimes kill you just for asking to be paid. The jungle is the land of nobody, There is no authority. The bosses can do what they want.”

Our conversation went on to other themes, especially the dangers he faced as a taxi driver and how he had to be careful in his choice of clients. The story is simple but holds a world that is so real for so many young people here in Peru, despite its economic growth and development of a more established and regulated society. Some children still face harsh risks

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