The footage shows the poor Tzotzil boy selling candy, cough drops and what looks like cigarettes in Villahermosa, the capital of the state of Tabasco. The boy, identified as Manuel Diaz Hernandez, was trying to make money to buy his own school supplies.
A city inspector, Juan Diego López Jiménez, is seen in the video spotting the boy, confronting him and taking packs of cigarettes from his basket. For full disclosure, it is illegal in Mexico for minors to buy or sell cigarettes. The inspector forces Manuel Diaz Hernandez to throw the candy onto the pavement and the boy is seen crying.
After the inspector walks off, another man helps the young boy pick up the sweets and Manuel Diaz Hernandez falls down into a squatting position, covers his face with his arms and begins crying while rocking back and forth.
It is not uncommon in Mexico for street vendors to sell single cigarettes at double the price to people who need just the one or don't have the money to buy a full pack. The cost of the candies and cigarettes thrown by the inspector is most likely more than what the boy would make in profit in a week, which explains his sobbing reaction. Officials have agreed, after the story hit the news, that the punishment for the boy was too severe, especially since Indians were enslaved a century ago in the region.
The video, taken last Monday, has been seen hundreds of thousands of times and on Friday, the National Human Rights Commission announced it would investigate the case. The city revealed on Wednesday that it fired the inspector.
"Any form of violence against children is totally unacceptable, especially when directed against Indians, who are one of the most vulnerable groups in the country," said the National Human Rights Commission said in a statement.
It was the latest victory for social media in winning some measure of justice in Mexico. In recent years, social media have exposed a number of scandals and instances of mistreatment that often would have gone overlooked in the past.
Tabasco state Gov. Arturo Nunez announced Thursday his administration would give Manuel and his family “a scholarship, as well as all medical and psychological help for the boy.”
Once again, we see the power of social media. Because of the online outrage, the inspector gets fired and the boy gets a scholarship.
For more on prejudice in Mexico, see Indigenous Mexicans Face Prejudice and Mexicans Gyrate in Blackface.