09 January 2009

Beggars and Ingrates

No hay peor malagradecido que un pordiosero.

There's no worse ingrate than a beggar.

The traditional gift-giving day in Puerto Rico is not December 25th (Oh, Mithra!), but January 6, Epiphany, known locally as Three Kings Day. It is also a tradition for the governor and his family to hand out toys to the children who flock to Muñoz Rivera Park, near Old San Juan.

Now I know what I'm about to point out has happened before, and would happen anywhere else in the world, but it infuriates Me nonetheless. An article in El Nuevo Día (in Spanish) quoted some parents concerning the gift-giving event:

"In tones of disgust, the families say that these are cheap gifts that they could give their children without having to get up so early to be at the event.

Neysa Rivera Pabón, living in Río Piedras and the single mother of seven children, said while waiting in line "All they hand out are balls all the time. As a mother, I expect them to give me something better than I can give (my children.)" Neysa arrived at the park at 3:52 a.m.

In addition to balls, on the tables were dolls, remote control cars and board games, amongst other (toys). 

A similar sentiment was expressed by Jazmín Álvarez Morales, who arrived from Arecibo at 4:00 a.m., and amidst laughter, appeared confident that (governor) Fortuño would give out "a car or a laptop" to the three children and three adults who were with her."

Three Kings Day is, like Christmas, a time for family sharing. Some of the people at the Park arrived at midnight--with their children--to get a toy. To arrive at 4:00 a.m. from Arecibo, Jazmín must have left at about 2:00-2:30 a.m. Is this a "family" way to spend their time?

As for Neysa, single mother of seven, complaining that "All they hand out are balls all the time," I can see why she complains, given that maybe seven pairs of balls have left her with too little time for herself.

And as for the toys being "cheap gifts that they could give their children without having to get up so early," why didn't the whiners do so? They ran out of food stamps? Can you use those to buy a laptop?

Yes, there are families whose children only receive a Three Kings gift because of this event. It is a sad, but true aspect of what is often a bittersweet holiday period, where many of Us have so much and too many of Us have almost nothing. And as the article notes, the children were happy with their toys; it's the adults that are the problem. But kids imitate what they see and hear, and the generosity of childhood can thus turn to the ingratitude of so-called adults living in a fantasy world. Because to stand in line to receive a gift, sometimes waiting 10-11 hours for it, and then complain or demand something better, calls out for a reality check.

So for those deluded ingrates, here's one: Beggars can't be choosers.

The Jenius Has Spoken.


lucilla said...

Gil I read the ENDI article and was disgusted at the fact that people would drag their kids to get a toy and then criticize what they received. What amazes me is that the government spent how much money? The spirit of the holiday is to spend it with family and reflect more on the religious significance rather than the materialistic message. If the economy is in such a bad state of affairs, where the heck did they find the time to buy these gifts, wrap them, and hand them out. If that much effort is placed in other areas of life, things would be different.

Kahlúa Macarena said...

omg... this is nauseating!!! that's why people in PR beg for money on the streets - it's a learned behavior, acquired from their parents and government officials, imprinted on their brains early in their childhood... ¿qué nos pasa, puerto rico? :o|

and the funny thing is that Fortuño said that this traditional gift giving was not going to be held this year because of the economic crisis... and he did it anyway... it was another political campaign dream - a plain lie.

The Insider said...

It's certain that those born into poverty or poorer circumstances are disadvantaged and have difficultly breaking the barrier to a higher class of life.

The class separation in Puerto Rico seems quite divergent. There are no shortage of 30 foot boats in tow, or Hummers driving by the many hoods here.

If we judge many of them purely on the face value of their ignorance, it would be easy to say they belong where they are. Of course, it's also likely that the aforementioned ignorance also stays with them each generation because of their class.

I would really like to see them more appreciative. I would really like to see them understand why they should be appreciative. I would really like to see them develop the entire mentality required to elevate themselves out of a state of hopelessness.

To do that, they need to "play nice" even if that's not what's in their hearts, and learn to swim with the sharks of middle and upper class who always readily agree its a kind gesture to give out some toys to the poor at Christmas, but (also) want them to keep their piece of junk cars off the road, clean up their dirty yards, hurry up and pass their Big Mac through the window, and get to work on time to mop the floors and clean the bathrooms.

When I started this comment, I thought I knew what I wanted to say. I thought I wanted to make a case why these particular representatives of the lower class belonged there due to poor character. And then I started thinking to myself how amazingly difficult it must be to live such a life. If I get angry just because of something simple like having to get a new tank of gas for the BBQ (a big inconvenience when I want my steak asap), I can't imagine how I would feel (after years of being stuck to the bottom of the barrel) when the governor gives me a baseball instead of a laptop!

Anonymous said...

Gil, have I told you that you are the freakin man?

Definitely going to be my feature this week.

I loved your commentary on that Neysa chick. It was on point.


GCSchmidt said...

Lucilla, it IS disturbing to read how ungrateful Our people can be. Ms. "Macarena," your shock is certainly appropriate to this spectacle and to see the The Larva go "safe" with the tradition in the midst of asking for $4 BILLION dollars to pay for "his" government is nauseating. Insider, you got lost in there somewhere, but I think I grok your (possibly hidden) point. And Ramona, I love being "the man," almost as much as I love your blog. Thanks, y'all!