From BORDERLANDS, El Paso Community College Local History Project
Traditional Children's Play Games Have Disappeared, and Now The Play Is For Real!
The table is set for dinner and the aroma of homemade tortillas fills the house. Outside, mama is pushing Juanito on a swing for a few last minutes of outdoor fun before papa gets home from work. On the street, the sounds of children playing escondidas (hide-n-seek) and bebe leche (hopscotch), can be heard throughout the neighborhood. This scenario has now become a thing of the past and remains only a memory for those of us over 30.
Many of the games we as children used to play are not played much anymore. Those games have now died out; they lie dormant in our minds because we lack the time and will to teach them to our children. The games we played when we were kids made us happy, active children, and they reflected the neighborhood culture from which we came.
Struggling to keep their heads above water, many Chicano & Black households have out of necessity “two working parents,” and in many households—only one parent to provide. Thus leaving the task of child rearing to a babysitter or worst--the gang. There are not enough hours in a working parent's day to pass on those traditional children's games that we were taught by our elders. When parents and kids get home in the evening, the parents begin the routine of ending the day by preparing diner, cleaning up and once again preparing for the next day. In the meantime, the child sits in front of the modern world's baby-sitter “the television.” In many instances, the kids are somewhere at their friends, maybe, learning and doing who knows what?
"Nothing that comes back into our lives during old age is as important as having good friends and happy memories of our youth." A generation ago, children from the neighborhoods gathered outside after school to play games out in the street, from a simple game of marbles to a game of kickball, young girls spent time indoors dressing their dolls, and boys were busy outside with their tops. The boys needed strength to make their wooden tops spin off from a coiled string onto the ground, and the boy, who could spin-kick the other tops out from a circle drawn on the ground, became the champ. Many families also played board games in their homes, and these games not only provided fun, but also gave the family the opportunity to spend an enjoyable evening together before retiring.
A kid’s natural creativity is being lost with todays electronics mind capturing expensive games, which have fast replaced the group games of the past. Nowadays, it seems that if a game isn't store-bought, it won't be fun or cool enough to play. When we olden ones were children, there weren’t many kids in our neighborhoods that had expensive store-bought toys, but with a stick and some imagination we could work wonders.
Compared to the games that children used to play, today's toys and games seem to lack the vitality, imagination, socializing skills and innocence of the traditional group games. While the changing times have made these old traditional games appear outdated and childish, the fact was that those old kid’s games did teach children the important “socialization” skills needed to live and get along with others in any ethnic neighborhood.
Can you remember those times when children ran to school early in the morning in order to have time to play a game with their friends before the class bell rang?
How many kids nowadays know how to play a simple game of marbles?
How many even care about learning a marbles game?
Schools back in the day were filled with excitement, running, laughter and all sorts of group activities, and children used to hang around the schoolyard after the end-of-classes just to finish off games left in a tie from recess and to socialize for a while before going home. Times being what they are, kids are no longer allowed to arrive at school too early or to stay on school grounds after class. This is partly because schools are short of funds and can't afford to pay playground monitors to watch the children, but mainly because of the rising gang violence in the neighborhoods which does not respect schools or playgrounds anymore.
The demands of society on the family are partly responsible for the disappearance of our traditional children's games. The sad but true fact is that we have had to trade some of our socializing culture to stay within the mainstream of our changing world. As much as some parents would like to spend time with their children to pass on parts of their Hispanic or Black cultural inheritance, our rapidly consumerist rat-race world demands something different.
Maybe on some nights, dinnertime can be a little later, and the paperwork can be put off for a little while longer, so that we may go outside with our children and become kids ourselves once-again together with them, for maybe then we can begin to stop the madness taking the lives of so many of our young people who grow up too fast and live too dangerously in a world where the games kid’s play are for real.
TRUCHA CON LA CARRUCHA!