In October 1998, in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, over 1500 Nicaraguans were killed in a landslide beneath Volcano Casita.
Thousands more were relocated to what is locally known as ‘the triangle of death’, an area on the edge of the city of Chinandega between a dump, a cemetery and a sewage plant.
Living on $1 per day
The move was supposed to be temporary, but they are still there today and they intend to stay.
Having been granted title to the land their rickety shacks sit upon, most people make their living from scavenging from the dump for recyclables and earning on average a dollar a day for their families, most with at least three children, some seven.
But for many of the locals this is preferable to being exploited on a sugar plantation or other such job which would also take them away from their children.
The people of El Limonal have an incredible resourcefulness and entrepreneurial spirit which has led many of them to create businesses and enterprises around the dump and the ‘Churekeros’ who work there, from panning for metal in the river which runs through the dump, to selling homemade tortillas to the Churekeros.
By working for themselves they are avoiding exploitation and remaining close to their families.
Even a short time spent with the people here shows us that they are not objects of poverty, but rather subjects of their own development
Sense of Community
The sense of community in El Limonal is very strong. People are desirous to stay, but they need some assistance with improving the infrastructure, their health, safety and education.
Gringos in the Garbage Documentary
Warren FitzGerald and Jess Rothenburger first visited El Limonal as ‘voluntourists’ in 2013. But they were compelled to return in 2014 to live with the locals and scavenge in search of recyclables and answers to questions they had about how this community survives and what it wants, if anything, from outsiders.
For these two ‘Gringos’ it was just the start of a journey of connections, joy, tears and illness that would lead them to question the very meaning of wealth and poverty.
Not only would they learn about surviving from a dump, but also about the endurance of the human spirit and the preserving of dignity.
Gringos in the Garbage is the documentary about their time spent living at El Limonal. 25% of all profits from the movie sales go to the Global Solidarity Group.
You can rent a viewing of the documentary, or purchase it, using the link on the embedded trailer above.
Jess, Warren and the film’s editor Ed Mochrie decided to share any profits equally from the sale of the film with the community.
But so profoundly moved were they by their experience there and the support of volunteers and others interested in helping El Limonal that Warren and Jess decided to form the Global Solidarity Group in order to generate more donations for the community than the 25% of movie sales.
All donations taken on this site, the Global Solidarity Group, with the exception of a 15% administration fee, go directly to supporting the community