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Awakening from childhood


Denise Phé-Funchal talks about the change in perspective of our favorite brands as we grow up and understand more about their practices.


Denise Phé-FunchalWriter

Denise Phé-FunchalWriter

Writer, sociologist, and professor. She has published the novel Las Flores (F&G Editores, 2007), the collection of poems Manual del Mundo Paraíso (Catafixia Editores, 2010), a book of short stories Buenas Costumbres (F&G Editores, 2011) and the novel Ana sonríe (F&G Editores, 2015). Some of her stories have been published in Guatemala, Argentina, El Salvador, Nicaragua, United States, Mexico, and Germany. 

Awakening from childhood

Unlike our parents, those of us born starting in the 1970s grew up surrounded by brands, and as children developed a relationship – sometimes almost affective – with these brands. Yes, with those anonymous entities, with huge corporations that made luxury products, that in the long run, have become almost a need.

Which of us at some point declared themselves a X or Y drink lover? Or of burger A, to some years later, feel that way about burger B? According to my memory, it was very similar to a sports or religion fanaticism. On the other hand, until just a few years ago, I also remember ads about trips, that mostly women went on, to a neighboring country to go shopping to a store that still is considered a luxury brand.

That’s how we grew up, establishing relationships with brands. Feeling as though they were part of our identity. I even remember heated debates among friends that vied for the taste, color, design of products that became social parameters. If you used, drank, or consumed this or that, you had more style, money, class that anyone else.

However, when entering the new phase in life of adulthood, many of us discovered the work conditions behind our access to these products. Or have some of you not walked by one of these burger stores, or any food, and seen people sleeping on the same benches that hours before were where the customers were sitting? It’s not just about that, of course, about people waiting to wake up to take a bus to go home to sleep until their next shift. It goes beyond that.

In the last years, social media has shown us up front – although the companies deny it – the human and environmental repercussions that creating these products have. Children and adults, almost slave-like, make the shirts, pants, bags, you name it, so that we can feel in style. Millions of liters and thousands of contaminated water sources are the effect of drink production, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, that give us satisfaction at a very high cost. Acres and acres of deforested land for the sake of burgers.

I remember one article shared on social media about the labor conditions of the children behind a brand of clothing that the whole world seems to love, although only a small percentage of people actually fit in it. And I remember someone’s comment that said something like, “I don’t need to think of others, it’s not my business and anyway, it’s not about Guatemalan children,” and almost defended their right to consume without any consideration for others.

The complication of the matter is that it’s not just about what happens locally, but across the world. Contamination, that is the legacy of brands, contamination that will last for years, centuries, if we survive.

For some years now, I avoid consuming these brands as much as possible; using brands that are wrapped in plastic, drinking carbonated beverages, using clothes that were made through exploitaton. It’s hard, yes hard and expensive because in this world, being mindful is something that comes at a high price. How about you? Do you know the labor conditions and environmental impact of your favorite brands? It might be time to find out.

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