Cateura is the city of the main garbage landfill of Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. It is also home to families living in the deepest levels of poverty, where residents make a paltry living by sorting the garbage for the recycling industry. Young children are expected to collect and peddle the waste as well. Currently, this situation describes upwards of 2,500 families in Cateura.
But from this dark and incredibly overlooked piece of the world, comes beautiful and heart-wrenching story, of something I think is stronger than hope. Rather, it's the story of a town which has forced good fortune to come its way.
"I came here once and saw a woman holding a newborn child with one hand and picking up rubbish with the other, and told myself this could not go on, this is how everything started," said Luiz Szaran, the conductor of Paraguay's national orchestra. Together with music teacher Favio Chavez, they set out to start a music school, and forcibly change the paths of so many families, and children, who lack basic necessities like food, shelter, and education.
Faced with more students than instruments, the teachers were rescued by Cola, a local luthier and garbage picker, who came up with the idea to put together instruments from the trash. Cola has been turning scenes like this:
Thus was born "Los Reciclados", The Recycled Orchestra. Now, The Landfill Harmonic is the documentary film, directed by Graham Townsley, following the young music makers of Cateura, who do not take their new musical gifts lightly. The recycled orchestra has allowed children to be students, and students to become musicians. The Landfill Harmonic, which is expected to be released in 2014, is part of an ongoing effort to bring opportunities to Cateura. Says orchestra director Favio Chavez, "People realize that we shouldn't throw away trash carelessly. Well, we shouldn't throw away people either."
Landfill Harmonic on Facebook
Hat tip to Yvonne Saa