La Chureca, 2009
The first time I entered La Chureca I was overcome with grief. I thought I had stepped into hell as only described in The Inferno. My eyes burned from the smoke rising from fires and eruptions of trash, my stomach churned with the fetid water and my skin baked in the hot Managua sun.
La Chureca, meaning the scavengers and the slang name for the Managua Municipal trash dump lies within the beautiful, poverty stricken country of Nicaragua. There are over 175 families living in the dump that spans over 150 acres. The "Churequeros" sift through the more than 1200 tons of trash received daily, collecting, sorting and selling recyclables, making less than $2.00 a day. The over 40-year-old area is plagued with disease, prostitution and drug abuse due to the extreme poverty, constant burning trash and dumping of medical waste. Chronic malnutrition also bedevils the people.
In the midst of such a harrowing place, one might think that the people of La Chureca are hard as a product of their surroundings. My experience with them was much different. As I photographed the area, I worked to make sure that I was attempting to be part of their lives and not just exploit them. I watched as trash was delivered and sifted through, I walked through the medical waste and visited homes of the Churequeros. The workers were kind, generous and willing to share their lives with me. Leading me to a recurring philosophy: people are only searching for love.
This project was made possible through an Arts Alive Individual Artist Grant from the Community Foundation of Weld County and in collaboration with the Fabretto's Children's Foundation.