The Basurero Municipal

This is a photographic essay about a seven-year-old boy who lives and works at the Oaxaca city garbage dump.

All images © Jan Rydqvist

The Basurero Municipal

Just outside Oaxaca in the south of Mexico lies the city’s garbage dump, Basurero Municipal. A shantytown of 2000 people live off, on and in the garbage – “Los Pepenadores” is the name these people are known by.

A skull and crossbones points the way to the garbage tip which increases by seventy tons of garbage every day. When the garbage trucks have emptied their loads, “Los Pepenadores” go methodically through the waste, sorting and separating all that can be of use or that can be sold. Dogs of all shapes and sizes, both dead and alive are to be seen everywhere, and apart from the Pepenadores and the canines, it’s the vultures and the sickly stench that leave the most remarkable impressions.

This is where a seven-year-old boy named Raol lives and works. He sort and separates the aluminum and the tin cans into large plastic bags and then carries them down to the collection point where the buyers come. Raol lives with his mother and two younger sisters in a tin shack just a hundred meters from the tip. The shack has only one room that is sparsely furnished with a table and a few chairs. There is a bench that doubles as a kitchen worktop, a gas stove and a small bed standing on tin cans, most of these things have been recovered from the garbage. Raol and his siblings all sleep on a mattress on the earthen floor. There are no locks on the door and the gaps above and under it let in the rain, the wind, rodents and insects. Raol was born here at the Basurero Municipal.

Thanks to Mary Ellen Mark, Svenska Filminstitutet Elisabeth Lysander and Konstnärsnämnden Nils Johansson.

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