Social Documentary: Mexico Garbage Dump Workers-Their Community, Struggles & Poverty

Women and men are collecting trash under the first rays of sunlight illuminating Tapachula’s municipal rubbish dump as two vultures fly over them.

This social documentary photography was submitted to Edge of Humanity Magazine by Photographer David von Blohn.

 

From project “Linda Vista” by David von Blohn.

 

Click on any image to see other stories by David von Blohn.

 

A woman in a colourful dress typical for the indigenous community most of the migrants from Guatemala that work at the rubbish dump belong to, is carrying recycled paper on her head. During their work, the women and men are exposed not only to bad smell and toxic materials that, according to local activists, are unloaded by corporations at the rubbish dump, but also to the direct impact of sunlight at temperatures that can reach 40 degree Celsius.

A woman in a colourful dress typical for the indigenous community most of the migrants from Guatemala that work at the rubbish dump belong to, is carrying recycled paper on her head. During their work, the women and men are exposed not only to bad smell and toxic materials that, according to local activists, are unloaded by corporations at the rubbish dump, but also to the direct impact of sunlight at temperatures that can reach 40 degree Celsius.

 

In search of opportunities and escaping the economic crisis in their country, indigenous Mayan families from Guatemala’s border region arrived around 20 years ago at the municipal rubbish dump of Mexico’s southern city Tapachula (State Chiapas) to start collecting and selling waste. The number of inhabitants of the area surrounding the dump has since increased to around 100 families living today in the settlement Linda Vista (Beautiful View), striving for dignity under difficult living conditions.

 

Children from Linda Vista are drawing water from their well. Since the settlement has no access to water supply, they use the water from the well in the background for cleaning, personal hygiene and cooking. Until now, no investigation has been carried out by the local authorities to determine the grade of pollution of the water, but due to the proximity to the rubbish dump, it is expected to contain toxic elements, which, according to local activists are unloaded by corporations in the rubbish dump.

Children from Linda Vista are drawing water from their well. Since the settlement has no access to water supply, they use the water from the well in the background for cleaning, personal hygiene and cooking. Until now, no investigation has been carried out by the local authorities to determine the grade of pollution of the water, but due to the proximity to the rubbish dump, it is expected to contain toxic elements, which, according to local activists are unloaded by corporations in the rubbish dump.

Rosaura (11) is dancing with a Barby doll with no head found in the rubbish dump.

Rosaura (11) is dancing with a Barby doll with no head found in the rubbish dump.

Carmelita and her daughter Maritza (11) are collecting water at a small river that flows below the rubbish dump to water their cultivations. Especially during the raining season, polluted water from the dump flows unfiltered into the river that families from Linda Vista use to wash their clothes, for personal hygiene and, when their wells dry out during dry season, even as drinking water.

Carmelita and her daughter Maritza (11) are collecting water at a small river that flows below the rubbish dump to water their cultivations. Especially during the raining season, polluted water from the dump flows unfiltered into the river that families from Linda Vista use to wash their clothes, for personal hygiene and, when their wells dry out during dry season, even as drinking water.

The feet of Rosaura (11) show a skin infection, which together with breathing difficulties and diarrhea is one of the most frequent health issues, the inhabitants of Linda Vista are suffering from. Activists criticise the role of Chiapas’ state government which has failed to provide medical services to the community of Linda Vista.

The feet of Rosaura (11) show a skin infection, which together with breathing difficulties and diarrhea is one of the most frequent health issues, the inhabitants of Linda Vista are suffering from. Activists criticise the role of Chiapas’ state government which has failed to provide medical services to the community of Linda Vista.

Children of the Linda Vista settlement are collecting mangoes from a fruit tree.

Children of the Linda Vista settlement are collecting mangoes from a fruit tree.

 

Collecting and selling PET plastic, metal, glass and paper to local waste buyers provides the workers with an income of 35 to 100 Mexican Pesos (2 to 6.30 US Dollars) per day.

 

Emmanuel (left), who works with one of the 3 corporations that buys waste at the rubbish dump, is weighting a bag of PET plastic to calculate the revenue that will be paid to the gatherer. Emmanuel, of Mexican origen, migrated undocumented to the United States, where he worked in Orlando (Florida) for 3 years to pay off a debt. “Over there, its like living in a prison”, he resumes his experience. Today he earns 150 Mexican Pesos (10 US Dollars) per day, his wife is expecting their second child.

Emmanuel (left), who works with one of the 3 corporations that buys waste at the rubbish dump, is weighting a bag of PET plastic to calculate the revenue that will be paid to the gatherer. Emmanuel, of Mexican origen, migrated undocumented to the United States, where he worked in Orlando (Florida) for 3 years to pay off a debt. “Over there, its like living in a prison”, he resumes his experience. Today he earns 150 Mexican Pesos (10 US Dollars) per day, his wife is expecting their second child.

Women and men that work in the rubbish dump are waiting to receive the payment for the collected PET plastic. The corporation that buys the waste from the workers pays 1.40 Mexican Pesos (0.10 US Dollars) per kg of PET plastic. Collecting plastic, metal, aluminum, paper and glass, the women and men can achieve an income between 35 to 100 Mexican Pesos (2 to 6.30 US Dollars) per day.

Women and men that work in the rubbish dump are waiting to receive the payment for the collected PET plastic. The corporation that buys the waste from the workers pays 1.40 Mexican Pesos (0.10 US Dollars) per kg of PET plastic. Collecting plastic, metal, aluminum, paper and glass, the women and men can achieve an income between 35 to 100 Mexican Pesos (2 to 6.30 US Dollars) per day.

 

Women, men and especially the children of Linda Vista live under precarious conditions, being exposed to pollution and living without water supply in improvised homes built with recycled materials.

 

Sotero is taking a rest in the hammock in his home in the Linda Vista settlement after a day of work. Originally from the aldea Vista Frontera in Guatemala’s municipality Tajumulcu, Sotero today takes care of the small catholic church, the community has built with recycled materials. He is one of the inhabitants of the settlements who have gained Mexican residency which allows him to cross the border legally to travel to Guatemala and visit his family.

Sotero is taking a rest in the hammock in his home in the Linda Vista settlement after a day of work. Originally from the aldea Vista Frontera in Guatemala’s municipality Tajumulcu, Sotero today takes care of the small catholic church, the community has built with recycled materials. He is one of the inhabitants of the settlements who have gained Mexican residency which allows him to cross the border legally to travel to Guatemala and visit his family.

 

With community efforts, the inhabitants have built a catholic church and a small school; nevertheless, only a small number of the estimated more than 200 children living in Linda Vista visit the school.

 

Isabel (16), together with her grandmother Juliana, who arrived at the rubbish dump with the first families around 20 years ago, decorate the small catholic church, that the community has built with recycled materials, with flowers they bought, as Isabel’s child Alejandra is watching. Juliana earns around 15 to 20 Mexican Pesos (1 to 1,3 Dollars per day), the flowers she bought cost 30 Pesos.

Isabel (16), together with her grandmother Juliana, who arrived at the rubbish dump with the first families around 20 years ago, decorate the small catholic church, that the community has built with recycled materials, with flowers they bought, as Isabel’s child Alejandra is watching. Juliana earns around 15 to 20 Mexican Pesos (1 to 1,3 Dollars per day), the flowers she bought cost 30 Pesos.

Anayeli (7) is taking notes during a language class in the small school, the community Linda Vista has built and which is visited by up to 24 children aged from 6 to 15, which receive classes together. For almost 2 years, the Consejo Nacional de Fomento Educativo (National Council for Education Development, CONAFE), an institution under Mexico’s Federal Government, has been providing 3 teachers to teach the children of the settlement. Nevertheless, only a small number of the estimated more than 200 children that live around the rubbish dump visit the school, many of them working from an early age on to help sustain their families. Activists criticise the role of Chiapas’ state government which has failed to establish a regular municipal school in Linda Vista.

Anayeli (7) is taking notes during a language class in the small school, the community Linda Vista has built and which is visited by up to 24 children aged from 6 to 15, which receive classes together. For almost 2 years, the Consejo Nacional de Fomento Educativo (National Council for Education Development, CONAFE), an institution under Mexico’s Federal Government, has been providing 3 teachers to teach the children of the settlement. Nevertheless, only a small number of the estimated more than 200 children that live around the rubbish dump visit the school, many of them working from an early age on to help sustain their families.

 

Activists criticize the role of Chiapas’ state government which has failed to establish a regular municipal school, provide medical services and water supply to the community of Linda Vista and accuse the dump administration of systematic exploitation of the women and men working in the rubbish dump.

 

Women and men are waiting for a garbage truck to unload waste from Tapachula at the municipal rubbish dump. During their work, they are exposed not only to bad smell and toxic materials that, according to local activists are unloaded by corporations in the rubbish dump, but also to the direct impact of sunlight at temperatures that can reach 40 degree Celsius.

Women and men are waiting for a garbage truck to unload waste from Tapachula at the municipal rubbish dump. During their work, they are exposed not only to bad smell and toxic materials that, according to local activists are unloaded by corporations in the rubbish dump, but also to the direct impact of sunlight at temperatures that can reach 40 degree Celsius.

Vultures are flying by as smoke ascends from a now abandoned part of Tapachula’s rubbish dump, which caught fire in January 2015 and could not be extinct completely until now.

Vultures are flying by as smoke ascends from a now abandoned part of Tapachula’s rubbish dump, which caught fire in January 2015 and could not be extinct completely until now.

 

Photographs taken between June and July 2015. This photo story is the first part of a long term project about migration on Mexico’s southern border.

 

See also:

Portfolio

Children of Rebellion

By David von Blohn

 


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