SST AT SEVENTY
La Chureca - Part 2
The bus makes its way past the fresh trash and follows a dirt road to the older part of the dump. Here the air has cleared and we can open the windows. We pass a number of groups of houses, a several pulperias, (small stores) a church, a school and a clinic.
We stop at a group of houses where we are invited to enter the open area between 3 or 4 houses. These are the homes of 3 sisters, their families and their mother. Their houses are made from large pieces of metal, salvaged from the trash. They do have running water and electricity. There are trees, some grass and dogs and puppies and mother hens with chicks. The ladies receive us cordially and tell us about their lives. The average daily income is about 60 cordabas ($3.00), just enough to buy one meal. Although there is a health clinic, most adults do not have the time or money to seek medical help when needed and a large percentage of the children have large amounts of lead in their bodies. There are 2 policeman who are stationed in La Chureca, but even so there are problems with robbery and assaults.
Most of the women who work in the dump are home today because there is a census being taken and they want to be sure that they are counted. The dump presently belongs to a family who were given the land in the 1940’s by the Somoza regime.
Now a large recycling company from Spain is thinking of buying it and making it a sanitary land fill with a large recycling plant. They say they will tear down the present housing and build new homes for the displaced families who actually are
squatters as they do not own the land where their homes are built. The recycling plant will provide jobs, but for men only. However 90% of households in La Chureca are headed by single women and many of the men who do live there have problems with addictions and other dysfunctions. What will happen to the women who need to support their families and will the company actually provide new homes are very real concerns to the residents of this community.
The workers here have organized in the past to combat injustice. Some time ago the persons who came to buy recycled goods started to go through the trash first and remove the items that were the most valuable for recycling thus reducing the amount the regular workers could sell. The workers banded together and barricaded the entrance to La Chureca with their bodies and did not allow the garbage trucks to enter. Since it is the only place for Managua to dump their trash it didn’t take very long to get some regulations which gave them first chance at going through the trash.
Before we get on the bus to return we meet Kati, Ruth and Anna who are part of the youth organization. Kati boards the bus with us and we stop a number of times for her to take pictures using our cameras. She does a great job of recording for us the daily work of this community as they earn money for their “daily bread” among the detritus of the larger community around them. Leaving this life is not possible for most workers. If they apply for a job on the “outside” their address within La Chureca immediately brings rejection. They do not have the money to buy most things in the stores outside the dump. Their children do not have money for higher education so the pattern repeats itself from generation to generation. The future looks very grim for this group of people who have needs, desires and value just like all of us.
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