MATRACA (Movement to support working and street children)

photo from Matraca

In the early 1990s, a group of students from universities in Xalapa began to meet to discuss social problems. Helped by a Jesuit priest, Davíd Fernández, these students divided into small groups to think about specific issues and to propose concrete solutions. Matraca emerged in 1991 as the work of the students that had been thinking about the issue of youth homelessness.

For several years, the Jesuits continued to support the program, which helped the youth leaders with fundraising and with keeping up their hopes in the midst of a difficult situation. However, after several years the Jesuits were assigned to new jobs in new cities, and the movement’s founders (now young professionals) had to take change. Since then, they have created the most important and successful program for street and working children in the state of Veracruz.  Its current director is Arturo Navarez.


Matraca takes its name from its support of working and street children, but also from a small Mexican toy. A matraca is a small box mounted on a thin stick; it is spun to make a loud noise. Like the matraca, Matraca strives to make a huge amount of noise on behalf of children.

Today in Xalapa, informal studies suggest that some 120 children live on the streets, while another 3000 work there.

street children in Xalapa
the children of the street that we try to help
Matraca works in four areas:
    Working children: Matraca defies this population as “children that work on the street, but that return home every night. They have not broken connections with family or school.” With these children, Matraca does organizational work, consciousness raising, and tutoring.

    Street children. These children have broken ties with their families and their schools, and the street is their main living space. In Xalapa, these children are at high risk of prostitution and drug abuse. Matraca serves them in two spaces:
    a Spanish volunteer at Matraca
a Spanish volunteer with one of our girls
    Families and community. Matraca teaches the Xalapan public about life on the street and works with families to enable them to reunite with their families. Matraca is proud to have won “the authority to speak with a moral voice to Xalapan society.”

    Media. Matraca collects and studies news stories from all of the newspapers in Veracruz, working to establish an “X-ray on the situation of children in the province.”
Matraca’s position on child labor is nuanced. Like UNICEF and the ILO, the program believes that it would be better if children did not work. Never the less, it recognizes that in the current Mexican economy this dream is impossible, so it strives to improve the conditions under which children work, keep them in school, and help families to achieve prosperity, so that their children need not work. “Child labor is the result of an unjust economy... It should not exist, but as long as it does, Matraca will defend and support the child worker.”

Matraca developed its methodology with the help of Ednica (Mexico City) and MAMA (Guadalajara). It is based on popular education, participatory research, and liberation theology. It begins from the idea that a child is a “subject in development” with an open future. It attempts to inculcate values of helping each other, respect, solidarity, and democracy.

report for 2008-2009

Matraca has a downtown center/club for classes/activities/offices called Club Matraca & a small house, Casa Matraca, which gives a loving home to from 4 to 11 homeless girls.

At Club Matraca, 2008-9:

inside Club Matraca
inside Club Matraca

1.      Health Care: 429 Medical Consultations (volunteer doctors, specialists); 135 Clinical Analyses; 4,118Showers for children/teens working/living in the streets; 105 Counseling sessions with psychologists; 11,808 meals served at Casa Matraca & at Club Matraca; Distribution of medicines & clothing

2.      Visiting Families in poor neighborhoods

3.      Educational seminars for the children/teens; classes; going into the streets to meet with the children/teens; mediating between the police and the children/teens. (Serving 330 working kids; 185 homeless)

teaching the kids

If you wish to donate to Matraca, send a tax-deductible check made out to WCCI and designated for "Matraca" to
WCCI c/o Dave Van Etten
702 Cree Drive
San Jose CA 95123-4614

As money is collected, a check will be sent to Matraca by registered mail, with heartfelt gratitude.

You may also donate directly to Matraca at this address:
 la cuenta del Banco es a nombre de: MATRACA A.C. Banco: Scotiabank Inverlat Dirección: Revolucion # 787 Edificio Plazuela.  Colonia Centro. C.P. 91000 Xalapa Veracruz, México. Numero de cuenta: 044840056012712103
Nuestra dirección electrónica es:

photos are by Morgan Zo Callahan