Before we get into it, I'd like to send a quick shout out to following people: Elaine, Heidi, Steph and Eric. Hey readers, interested in this kind of publicity? I'm not surprised. All you have to do is subscribe!
Heidi and I were able to get to know Alejandro a little better yesterday when he joined us for an afternoon snack. Over nachos at the highly recommended restaurant, Nectar, Alejandro told us about his family (his mother who gave him up as a young child because of her addiction to drugs, his father who never wanted children, and his aunt who he lives with now). His aunt is raising several of his brothers and sisters in addition to her own children. He also told us his life as a “niño de la calle” as he put it; how he begs for money, sells cigarettes, candy and small figurines made from leaves in order to help his aunt feed his family. It was such a relief to learn that he does indeed have a home and that the time we saw him sleeping on the street was because he was fighting with his aunt (which, while still saddening, is better than him being homeless). And for those of you wondering, it turns out that he does have shoes and is actually 17 – it seems that he really has mastered how to tug on the heartstrings of tourists.
Alejandro is quite the charmer; I think he could have been a superstar if he had been born to different circumstances. He seems to love chatting with anyone who will take the time to listen. Be careful though, he's certainly not above making fun of you if you happen to mess up your Spanish.
I don't know that his story is true, but I choose to believe it. We left him with a full stomach, 200 cordobas and, per his request, a promise to pray for him and his family.