Another field trip, this time to Managua to visit La Chureca, one of the world’s largest dumps will be our morning visit. After arriving in Managua in the usual two minivans we transfer to one larger bus for the trip into the dump. We stop first in Acahualinca, a community just outside La Chureca. Many of the people living here support their families by working in the dump collecting recyclables to sell.
Before the world monetary crisis a collector would get 11 cordabas (about $.55) for 1 lb. (30-35) plastic water bottles. Now it is 1 cordoba ($.05).
We crowd into Yamalet Bonilla’s small house. She will be our guide when we enter La Chureca. Right now she tells us about her life here both in the past and present. As a young mother in the 80’s she worked in the dump to support her family. It was hard and she and her children suffered from malnutrition. She left for awhile and went to northern Nicaragua, but returned in 1991 because she could not support her family there. On returning she and some of her neighbors began organizing to improve their community and to combat crime. They developed soccer teams to give the young people activities besides gangs and violence. They also provide basicmedical care and education for victims of domestic abuse. A club of 16 young people ages 9 to 20 is another activity they sponsor. The youth are learning how to use digital and and movie cameras, computers and broadcasting. Three or four times a year they have the opportunity to give a 3 minute broadcast which is called “Three Minutes with the Youth of La Chureca. They are thrilled to have one computer to use. Yamalet passes around photos that they have taken that chronicle their lives in La Chureca.
When we tour actual dump one of the youth will take pictures for us using our cameras. We return to our bus for the trip into the dump, but first we must wait for a large water delivery truck to move out of the way because the unpaved street is not wide enough for the vehicles to pass each other. Yamalet says that a recent change in the city government has brought increased civic improvement such as street repair and more attention being given to learning what the community feels is needed.
As we enter La Chureca we close all the windows. It gets hot and stuffy very quickly, but it is better than inhaling the murky air and smelling the odor of rotting trash. We pass slowly by trucks of all kinds bringing trash from Managua to be dumped. There are heaps of all kinds of garbage and groups of people of all ages sorting through the garbage to find recyclable material that they can use or resale. Most people carry large plastic bags to put the things they gather in and long poles for poking into and moving the piles of trash and garbage. There are also some hand carts and horse carts being used. The biggest surprise is the animals, mostly cattle and some horses who forage for food in the piles of rubbish along side the people. (To be continued)
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