Cast Out in Guatemala


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Published August 11, 1998

photo essay by Zbigniew Bzdak

... on-site report by Robin Biesen

Claudia Nunez, 7, searches for food and paperClaudia Nunez, 7, searches for food and paperGuatemala City is home to one of the world's largest garbage dumps – a sea of waste that lies only a few miles from the center of a bustling Latin American metropolis. Inside the dump, thousands of people struggle to survive by salvaging what they can from the cast-out refuse.

Every morning, by the time the sun peeks above the Guatemalan horizon, an army of workers descends into the garbage from their homes built atop the hills of compacted trash. The ground smokes from underground fires that swallow homes and people without warning. Looming to the west, the towering volcano, Agua, rests like a sleeping sentry. Those in the dump – mostly women and children as young as five – don't take time to savor the majestic view.

Hunched over in back-breaking toil, the workers dig for items that nearby recyclers will be willing to buy. City trucks stampede through the dump for about 10 hours each day, rushing to drop their loads. The workers struggle to search through the garbage before bulldozers, which are oblivious to people in their path, push the trash into the gorge below.

Babies and toddlers too young to work are placed in discarded tires and cardboard boxes, then covered with torn plastic bags to protect them from the sun and the thousands of turkey-sized vultures, which hover on air currents and alight to scavenge with workers. The birds fear no one and will openly fight a child for a rotten avocado or a half-eaten melon. More often than not, the vultures win.

Nothing protects the people from the invisible hazards of the garbage, which is rife with human waste, discarded food, contaminated plastics and cardboard. Sanitation is nearly non- existent for the approximately 5,000 residents of the dump, and there is no safe drinking water.

Violence is a constant danger. Gangs prey on others' vulnerabilities and kill and maim simply because they can. No police patrol the dump, and there is scant justice for thousands of poor victims.

Addiction runs rampant among people of all ages. Alcohol is the drug of choice for adults. Children turn to cobbler's glue, which is affordable and easy to obtain and use. Fifteen cents will buy a quarter-bottle of sweet-smelling, amber glue -- enough to last about 24 hours. The addictive glue quells hunger pangs, but it kills quickly by destroying massive numbers of liver and brain cells.

Stigmatized by society, the people cluster together out of necessity and operate independently out of fear. If they don't work, they know they will die – the Guatemalan government offers no aid or safety net, only a concealing wall of tall cement barricades surrounding the entire area.


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Faces

Using a steel bar, Claudia Nunez, 7, searches for food and paper, which is sold to recyclers. Claudia, her mother and younger sister make their home in the dump in a dirt-floor shack constructed of cardboard, sheets of plastic and discarded wood.


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Landscapes

Fewer workers crowd the dump in the evening. Animals take advantage of the opportunity to scavenge for food.


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Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 154

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 134

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 140

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 148

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 154

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 134

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 140

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 148

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 154

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igUtilityHelper::getGalleryDimensions() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 169

Deprecated: Non-static method igUtilityHelper::makeHeadJs() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 291

Women and Children

A Guatemalan woman carries recycables scavenged from the trash. Selling collected paper, plastic and cardboard provides the only income for the people who make their home in the dump.


Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 134

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 140

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 148

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 154

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 134

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 140

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 148

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 154

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 134

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 140

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 148

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::originalToResized() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 154

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getIncrementFromFilename() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 141

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::getFolderName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 142

Deprecated: Non-static method igFileHelper::makeFileName() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/administrator/components/com_igallery/helpers/file.php on line 143

Deprecated: Non-static method igUtilityHelper::getGalleryDimensions() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 169

Deprecated: Non-static method igUtilityHelper::makeHeadJs() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/prototap/public_html/sobs.org/components/com_igallery/views/category/view.html.php on line 291

Survival

Antonio Chavez stands near one of the two toilets used by hundreds of people in his neighborhood. The sewage drains down the side of a ravine into the dump. His house is less than 20 feet away.