A violent 36 year civil war, which ended in 1996, greatly scarred Guatemala. Many rural areas of the country were destroyed by fighting, and many of these communities lost their young men to both the guerilla and government armies. During and after the civil war, individuals and families migrated to urban areas in the hopes of safety and economic opportunity. Unfortunately, the governments of these urban areas were unprepared for this growth. Squatter communities grew in undesirable locations in the city, and with the end of the civil war the militias were released without direction creating gangs of armed men in areas of great material poverty.
One of these squatter communities developed in the area surrounding the Guatemala City garbage dump. The Guatemala City garbage dump is the largest landfill in Central American. Thousands of people called “guajeros” go into the garbage dump each day to search for recyclables that can be to be sold. Often they work for 12 hours 6 days a week for just a few dollars a day. In many cases, this is the only income for a family living in this community. While the city now requires a permit in order to enter the landfill to do this work, many sneak in illegally just for the opportunity to find something of value to sell. In addition to the unimaginable conditions of working in a garbage dump, there is much danger. Garbage truck accidents, landslides, fires, and violent competition face the guajeros every day.
The community that developed around the landfill is also marked by much danger. In addition to the difficult living conditions of makeshift housing, dirt floors, and the constant smell of garbage, the city government has labeled the area a “red zone” which designates a high level of crime, drugs, and gang activity and limits the education and employment opportunities for those with an address in the red zone.
For the Love of Missions has learned through time and relationship of the many challenges facing people living in this community. We work to facilitate economic opportunities for people living in this community. Go to www.fortheloveofmissions.org to learn about how we build relationships through economic opportunities to transform the generational cycles of poverty.