Santa Cruz de Quiché is the capital of the El Quiché department. It is located in northwestern Guatemala and has a population of 78,279. More than 82% of the municipality’s residents identify as Mayan with K’iche’ as their first or only language.
Guatemala has the highest number of child laborers in Latin America, and Quiché is one of the two most affected departments in Guatemala. Young, mostly indigenous, children are forced to work illegally and under dangerous conditions.
Since 2011, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Santa Cruz de Quiché.
Most child laborers are employed in agriculture. Children are forced to use machetes and other dangerous tools to harvest sugar cane.
In addition, coffee beans are picked by children as young as five, who must carry heavy loads and mix pesticides.
To increase family income, some parents send their children to the cities to work as beggars or street performers. The children receive very little, if any, pay for physically demanding work done over many hours.
Many families depend on subsistence farming. To escape poverty, some people work as day laborers on farms, where they earn less than $2.95 per day.
In order to contribute to the family income, children have to work on family farms from a young age or take care of siblings, cooking and cleaning instead of going to school.
Without primary education, children have little chance of escaping the cycle of poverty later in life.