Childhood is usually portrayed as the happiest stage of a human’s life. Thinking about it brings to mind songs and images of smiling children holding hands. Far more complex stories tend to hide behind these postcards, which their protagonists will later entrust to their readers, their therapists, or their lawyers. Children are without a doubt the most vulnerable humans. Their small size, their physical weakness, their naivety, and their open and impressionable minds make them easy targets for predators. Over the past century, Western culture has significantly changed the ways in which we perceive and interact with children. Minors—who at the start of the 20th Century worked in mines, factories, and plantations—today have far more rights and fewer obligations. Diseases that sentenced so many of them to death before the age of 3 have been, to a great extent, contained. Child abuse in families and schools is now scarcely tolerated and some parents and teachers even complain about “child tyrants”. We are, by far, the species that prolongs the period of nurturing the longest. We take care of our children as if they were our treasures. Not only do we worry about their physical and psychological wellbeing, but we do the impossible to make sure they live this stage of their lives as fully and happily as possible. However, in countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, and countless others, the lives of many children are far removed from this reality: they are forced to migrate North, work, beg, or join organized crime.
The Revista de la Universidad de México wanted to talk about childhood and address some of its issues. This issue includes luminous and hopeful articles such as “Prodigy Children” by Mathieu Huatefeuille, or “Childhood in the Face of Climate Change” by Luis Zambrano, and also others that are more bleak (but not for that reason less important) such as Óscar Martínez’ chronicle about a young Mara entitled “Between the Abyss and the Lion,” or Naief Yeyah’s “A Bomb of Fragmentation Called Child Pornography.” How have parent-child relationships changed? What are the dangers that children face today? Why do some children become activists while others commit suicide or become criminals? What makes adults long for their childhood? These are some of the questions that led to the birth of this issue. The children of today will be responsible for the world of our old age. They are also the future custodians of the planet. If as Sigmund Freud said, “childhood is destiny”, it is up to all of us—men and women—to take responsibility and ensure that it be as bright as possible.