In the heart of Antigua, Guatemala, a humble park plays an international intersection as tourists stroll through the center of the centuries old town. Beneath the shade of trees, day in and out, indigenous children shine shoes, sell ice creams and trinkets while dodging the patrol of local police attempting to shut them down.
Nestled in a valley surrounded by three volcanoes and located less than forty kilometers from Guatemala City, Antigua is the former Spanish colonial capital of Guatemala. Currently an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is a popular tourism hub featuring colonial architecture and ruins alongside bustling bars, hotels, and restaurants. With the relative wealth of the people passing through, many indigenous families from the economically disadvantaged surrounding farmlands send their children to live and work in the city to earn extra income, most of which is sent back home to help support the rest of the family.
Domingo, who runs his father’s ice cream cart, Yesenia, who sells scarves and weaves traditional braids, and brothers Miguel and Hugo, who shine shoes, are four such children. It is through their day that we get a glimpse of the wider workings of the city.
Starting from the perspective of the children and the park - the center of the city – the film branches out to look at other aspects of the working economy. Artists, street food vendors, and concierges support themselves through work often related to the tourists passing through the city, but local government seeks to control these often indigenous workers’ ability to survive financially. Back in the park the children are harassed by the local tourist police who are there to protect the tourist industry over these indigenous Guatemalans, a form of modern-day colonialism.
As night falls, the wealthy visitors to the city eat at fancy restaurants and dance at the several new foreign-owned night clubs popping up in town while our heroes fall asleep in concrete rooms. In this contrast the film depicts the opposing perspectives on history, colonialism, poverty, and image – of the city and of the people who live and work there.
With a more suggestive than explanatory approach, the audience gets an emotional and physically immersive sense of the lives of the central children and the rhythms of the city as a whole. The experimental ethnographic elements combine with the city symphony aspects to give the viewer both a visceral and a considered experience.