Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Road to the Dump is a One-Way Street (Almost)

Today, we went to visit the site I will be working at for the next 11 months.  It’s name is AMEXTRA – the Associacion Mexicana para la Transformacion Rural y Urbana.  After a 30-minute Metro ride, a 20-minute light rail ride, and a 40-minute microbus ride that transitioned to dirt roads as we got close, we were there.  It wasn’t the first dump I’ve visited.  Twice this summer, I had the privilege of visiting the Waushara County dump where the camp I worked at takes its cardboard, plastic bottles, and scrap material.  There’s a neat place off to one side where things like water heaters, lawn mowers, and old motors go.  In the middle are two giant dumpsters for cardboard and plastic.  Two compactors receive the garbage.  Everything is clean and organized.

The dump we saw today is not.  Muddy roads meander around.  Diesel-belching trucks lumber through, downshifting to make the climb with a full load of garbage in tow.  Dogs, chickens, and pigs roam around.  And there are people who live at the dump too.  Many of them make their living doing this – either because they’re actually employed to sort the garbage or because they do it to pick out things to sell later.  Either way, it’s certainly not a pretty sight. 

But this is not the biggest difference between these two dumps.  The biggest difference between the dump in Wisconsin and the dump in Mexico is the road.  Not even because of the material that it’s made of, but because of what it means.  You see, I can walk into the dump.  But I can also walk out of the dump.  I can get on a train and go home.  For the people who survive in the dump, there is no real road out.  They don’t have the money to leave and even if they did, they wouldn’t have anywhere to go.  They have no education, no papers, no future outside of the dump.  The richest team of U.S. volunteers could chopper them out, hand them each a stack of $100 bills and they would still be no better off than they are now.  What needs to happen first is transformation.

Understand this: the people of La Puebla Perdida (The Lost Village) do indeed have something.  They have a life.  They have stories.  They have each other.  This is not nothing.  Only when we begin to understand that through working with others rather than for others will real change take place. 

What one-way roads do you walk down?

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