Documentary Canillitas: Denouncement of child labor in the Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo.- “I’ve learned so many things at Canillitas that I never knew before. Ever since I joined the program, I’ve become a different person,” Moisés joyfully confides. He is one of the central figures in a documentary shedding light on child labor in the Dominican Republic, a program initiated by the Spanish Christian organization Misiones Salesianas.
The documentary, titled “Canillitas,” was directed by the acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Raúl de la Fuente, a two-time Goya award winner. It premiered this week in Madrid, offering a poignant glimpse into the lives of Moisés and five other minors who share his plight.
The term “Canillitas” refers to children who eke out a living on the streets, mimicking running by moving their legs quickly.
The film uncovers the vulnerability and perils faced by children working on the streets of Santo Domingo, while also highlighting the positive impact of the Salesian program, which has been dedicated to eradicating child labor globally for nearly half a century.
“Before I joined Canillitas, I had no friends or playmates in my neighborhood. My daily routine involved leaving school and rushing off to shine shoes,” explains Moisés during a press conference in Madrid where the documentary was introduced.
Through the Salesian program, he not only learned to make friends but also acquired literacy skills, developed good character and fostered camaraderie with his peers. Additionally, the program broadened his horizons with activities like camps, outings, and sports.
Karen Montás, who has been involved with Don Bosco in the Dominican Republic for two decades and serves as the director of “Canillitas,” recounts her initial shock upon witnessing the profound vulnerability in the country, marked by overcrowded housing, insecurity, and pollution.
“I remember telling my mother that I felt guilty for eating because there were boys who hadn’t eaten that day,” she confesses.
Montás initially felt disheartened, believing that no progress was being made. However, she later realized that it’s a gradual process involving a shift in mindset, working closely with families and, most importantly, with schools since education is pivotal in altering reality.
“It’s astonishing when a child discovers that they can read, understand street signs, or decipher labels on products. Witnessing this transformation is incredible,” she reveals.
Furthermore, there has been a transformation in professional aspirations over time. In the beginning, everyone aspired to be a police officer or a reggaeton singer, reflecting the limited exposure they had in their neighborhoods.
“But when, for instance, you take them to a hotel and show them that they could become managers, or you take them to an office and demonstrate that they could work there, it opens up more possibilities for them, and they dare to dream. That’s the most beautiful aspect of it all,” she asserts.
“The reasons these children engage in labor are diverse, and Salesian missionaries have responses for each case: conflicts, poverty, orphaned children, displaced individuals, domestic servitude… for us, education is the key. It’s a collaborative effort involving governments, families, and civil society,” argues Raquel Fuente, responsible for International Cooperation for the Development of Salesian Missions.
The documentary is part of the “Dreaming without Chains” campaign, through which the NGO exposes the rights violations faced by over 160 million boys and girls who are forced into labor, depriving them of education.
More than 63 million girls and 97 million boys are trapped in child labor, accounting for nearly 1 in 10 minors. Alarmingly, almost half of them, approximately 79 million, are subjected to work that jeopardizes their health and lives.