Cateura, Paraguay is a slum built on a landfill. The people are incredibly poor and work to recycle the 1500 tons of solid waste that accumulates daily. Most of the residents work for the recycler and many of the young people are needed to work too, foregoing school. Favio Chavez, an ecological technician at the landfill, wanted to help create something positive for the young people there who don’t have a lot to look forward to. He has created violins and cellos and other instruments out of the garbage he finds in the landfill— the Landfill Harmonic, if you will. A small ray of sunshine in a toxic environment in which 25 families live. A documentary on this orchestra is in the process of being made by Graham Townsley.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. How touching and warm this should make us all feel, young people working to create art in a environment which has pretty much found them and their families disposable. This all rests uneasy with me. The music is nice and all, but I wonder about these people’s life expectancy and quality of life. The poor management of the waste has already poisoned their water supply. Though this 30-piece orchestra has performed in Germany and Argentina and will be travelling to the United States, I’m not sure this music is powerful enough to solve the enormous problems and issues in Cateura. How do we move from awareness to action?