Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Very Powerful Story: White Train & Scavengers

Cartoneros are just that, the product of the 2001 Crisis. Cartoneros scavange the dumpsters and trash of Buenos Aires and other cities every day to survive.
This very well written article explains what its like to survive that way each day, scavenging and eating directly out of trashcans almost seven years after the economic collapse of 2001. As of today, more than a decade after the collapse there’s more cartoneros than ever searching in the trash to make a living and calling cardboard boxes under bridges and wastelands their homes.
MUST READ folks, the article is just full of gems. Click on the link, it has a well-made video clip as well.

The White Train

J. Malcolm Garcia
Man Riding Train
Cut grass blows into the face of a cartonero as he looks out the door of a White Train.
Buenos Aires, June 2007
The White Train carries us.
We racket from side to side on warped steel tracks, our nostrils burning with the odor of aged brakes and wearied engines in winter’s brittle, fog-laced air. Above us cars hurtle along a freeway in the last minutes of rush hour, golden in the glare of sunset glinting off the glass high-rises of downtown Buenos Aires, and we—cartoneros, collectors of cardboard, black as chimney sweeps striped in pink light and motes of dust—stare out broken windows covered with grilled steel plates that chime from rocks thrown at us by fleeting figures on the ground.
Puto! one of us shouts at them and laughs.

Only minutes ago, we sat amid the ruined decadence of Victoria station, its colonial archways cracked and mildewed from decades of neglect. We smoked cigarettes between our carts that held the jumbled, leaning masses of flattened cardboard and heaps of nylon strips and sacks of newspaper and every other piled-high bit of scrap we had collected. Hunched and bristling, dogs rushed beneath our towers of discard, so fearful were they of collapse. There in the exposed dirt we waited for the White Train; what little warmth we had came from small fires over which we rubbed our hands, shared mugs of mate, and the hot breath of our worried conversation awash in blowing ash.
They want to take us out of circulation.
When I was a truck driver, I didn’t like the cartoneros. I didn’t think much of them. Now look at me. Perhaps this is justice for my previous life.
Last Friday, a train went off the rails and we couldn’t get transportation for the day. Imagine if they take the train away and it’s like that all the time.
The White Train, blue and white and wet with dew, pulled in just when we had nearly lost all hope. Cats scattered and we hefted our loads. Cardboard scratched the pavement.
I don’t like this, a woman said, but it’s the only way to make ends meet.
Drinking from bottles of soda mixed with wine, we set about loading the train. Dust swirled around us and stuck to our wet lips. We shuffled past car batteries, refrigerator grilles, abandoned tvs, and always cardboard and paper—the echoing clatter of our boarding consumed finally by the slow rising grind of the train’s wheels as it pushed forward once more and now, lulled into sleep, we dream dreams of ceaseless motion. 

Most people in downtown Buenos Aires avert their eyes when the White Train rattles past. They pretend not to see it and its trash-scavenging passengers. They may want to believe it doesn’t exist. After all, it has no official timetable, no windowpanes, no doors in the frames, and no seats.
And soon those people who dread its appearance will no longer have to lie to themselves about its existence. No longer will they have to wish it away. The government will remove it for them. This year, Buenos Aires officials intend to eliminate the White Train, one of the most visible signs of the poverty afflicting a city still known as the Paris of South America. (Read the rest-LINK)
Join the forum discussion on this post!


Anonymous said...

So did they end up getting rid of The White Train?

Dan said...

Those people have the spark of entreprenurship, but still retain quite a bit of socialism. They are taking charge of their situation and working, rather than waiting for handouts, but they still expect to have someone provide transportation for them and their carts. Do they pay for their passage on the train?
Only the one woman who formed a co-op seemed to have the right mentality.
Yes, let them work, but no one should be forced to pay for the train that they use.