Photo Essay: The Faces of South America’s Future


This week’s guest post has been submitted by Ellen Keith, a travel blogger, salsa dancer, history geek, and self-proclaimed wanderer.

The Faces of South America’s Future

The first connection I make with locals in any foreign country is with children. Children have an uncanny ability to cast aside fears and boundaries to feed their curiosity. Whether they’re playing or working (as is sadly often the case), they retain an innocence that radiates through their energy and smiles.

I spent 2012 journeying across South America, a continent in a period of economic and social transition as it moves into the 21st century. Here are the faces that stood out to me there, the same faces that will one day shape South America’s future.


The Hostel Greeter.

There were fewer than ten guests at my hostel on Ilha do Mel, a small Brazilian island, but the place still appeared to have an entertainment staff. Whether he was sharing his cereal with me, showing off his capoeira moves, or doing underwater handstands, this young man knew how to command the attention of anyone nearby.

La Salsera

La Salsera.

The Feria de Cali is the event of the year in Cali, Colombia. Hundreds of dancers put in hundreds of hours of practice for the ability to participate in the Christmas day kickoff parade. This young salsera couldn’t have been older than sixteen, but she showed the fearlessness and strength of a professional.


Bolivian Singing Lessons.

It was a holiday in this tiny Bolivian village, but these children still spent the day playing in the schoolyard. They followed us around and were eager to sing us the songs that they had learned that week.

Daily Commute

The Daily Commute.

San Cipriano is a village in western Colombia. There are no roads leading there, only a railroad. Public transportation is a trolley cart pulled by a motorbike which runs along the tracks, but many of the village residents walk to the neighbouring town to buy food or attend school.

Urban Playground

Urban Playground.

La Paz, Bolivia is a labyrinth of adobe and brick buildings. But tucked in even the poorest of neighbourhoods are modest playgrounds. This boy was at the park by himself, playing on the slide.


A Moment’s Rest.

When I asked where his parents were, this Colombian boy told me that they were at home sleeping while he was out working.



Erick is a shy toddler, who would rather curl up on someone’s lap than go exploring. Yet when he thinks that no one is looking, he’ll always sneak a peek to see what’s going on around him.


Bolivian Girl.

While her friends were off playing, this five-year-old Bolivian girl stuck to my side. She was transfixed by my camera and happy to pose for photos.

Carioca Face

Carioca Face.

During carnival in Ipiales, Colombia, this boy was collecting discarded canisters of “carioca” foam which people sprayed throughout the parade. Sometimes, he got caught in the cross-fire!

Waiting for Customers

Waiting for Customers.

This boy offered carriage tours of the historic centre of Cartagena. He listened to music to pass the time between customers.

Running the Show

Running the Show.

Lima’s Chinatown is filled with family-run restaurants. While her mother cooked, this girl served us and tried to keep up with her homework. She practiced her music scales on the recorder while we ate.

At Work or Play

At Work or Play?

Even those who are sent to work will always be kids above anything else.


Author bio: Ellen Keith is a salsa dancer, history geek, and self-proclaimed wanderer. She spent 2012 backpacking solo through South America and Europe. This year, she’s working on her master’s in creative writing while fueling her wanderlust with a summer in Africa. Find her on her blog, La Viajera (Spanish for “The Female Traveler”) or here on Twitter, and Facebook.


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