Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mujer de la Basura - The woman of the garbage

She walks the colonia with dignity, friendliness and spunk.  She is the woman who collects garbage from residents who don't or can't stand on the street twice a week waiting for the garbage truck.

She comes to people's homes and collects their garbage and lugs it back to her house.  At that point she goes through the bags looking for reusable items.  I heard on the news just the other day that 40% of the food purchased in the USA is tossed in the trash or disposed of.  I find that an incredible statistic.  I sincerely doubt that  is the percentage in Mexico.

What I have noticed as I drive by the little house that the "Woman of the Garbage" and her two sons live in, is that she is now putting plastic containers on the roof with roots of plants that are now growing.  I bet by the end of the summer, she'll have a garden up there.

I'm sorry I don't know her name.  We exchange greetings or a wave each time we see each other.  I've noticed that one of her sons comes on Tuesdays to get garbage from my next door Mexican neighbors.  The boy is always cleanly dressed and apparently has just come home from school. He nods to me when he sees me.

When I first moved here an elderly woman, and I do mean elderly, would come to the house to get my garbage.  Josefina charged 5 pesos a week to pick it up from me twice a week.  I felt so guilty about this that I started carrying it down to the corner (the truck does not go past my house) so that she wouldn't have to do so.  Of course, in retrospect, I now realize I was taking money that she counted on.  I wasn't savvy enough at that point.  It's not an easy task to lug the bags down to the corner, wait for the truck and then hoist it up to the guy who is at least 8 feet away from you.  Finally, after about nine years of this, I decided I had had enough. Javier, the gardener now takes it for me.  Come to think of it though, I did enjoy smiling and talking to the other Mexicans who were down there too.  I was always the only gringo.

It's just another facet of life in Mexico where you do things that when you lived in the USA, you would never have even considered being a part of.  I used to think about that as I was hauling trash down the street. ""IF my friends in Houston could see me now" And, then I would chuckle. 


picklesandroses.blogspot.com said...

Here we just haul it to the curb, thank goodness. I'm always amazed at the incredible recycling that I see in Mexico. A cardboard box may become the cover for a handmade book. Such creative people!!

Anonymous said...

You San Miguelenses have it so hard. Here in Morelia, any number of garbage trucks, all privately owned, pass by, heralded by a worker running a block and ringing a bell. You, or rather your employee, stands outside the gates, and hands it over to the guy on the truck. No slinging required. And you just pay what you feel is appropriate, according to the amount of trash you have.

Not one, not even white trash, would leave trash unattended at the curb. That is just so trashy. So trashy, even, that the trash trucks won't pick it up.

Babs said...

Jennifer, I actually pay for garbage service through SAPASMA and a truck goes to the school across from me and pulls in their lot. When I tried to take my trash over there I was told, summarily, that I couldn't put my trash in the city truck! So I never did again....
There is a guy with an ear splitting bell that comes on Tuesday but, unfortunately, I don't have "help" on Tuesdays and running down the hill is death defying.
People don't leave their trash on the curb, they find hooks way up that the dogs can't get to and hang their bags there!

Babs said...

Kay, that reminds me of the experience I had in PV when I was renovating that house in Gringo Gulch. Cantera had been delivered in crates. I had the cardboard and timber crates put outside the front door at the bottom of the hill along with string. Within 30 minutes, it was all gone. HOpefully used as needed. It is a recycling paradise.

Caddie said...

This post highlights for me the fact that so many of the USA are spoiled rotten, tragically wasteful.

Years ago, I cleaned offices and homes for the rich. A complex of condos was behind the office building. I could write a tome on the wanton waste in that one area. The maintenance man found the dumpster crammed full one early morn with gift packages, many still wrapped. It seems the new bride and groom had received duplicates of many items and didn't need two or more - into the trash they were flung!
Absolute insanity and especially so when I think of those who have nothing, not even decent meals each day nor a roof over their head.

Tremendous food waste in the USA -federal laws against giving it away to the needy. As far as I know, one can't even get restaurant scraps for their pigs anymore.

Babs said...

Well, for me the post was about the ingenuity of the woman who handles the trash.
I do know how wasteful and disposable the US society has become. My daughter, in the past, has traveled the streets of her affluent neighborhood and found a 10 person tent, a trampoline and more things then I can list! She has put them to good use.
However, the statistic about the food was because the former head of Trader Joe's is starting a grocery chain that will be selling scratched, dented and outdated food that would have gone in the trash. I think that is fantastic.
In Houston, and I imagine in other cities, members of the Houston Restaurant Assn are part of a parogram to package up left over food at the end of the day that is delivered not only to the Food Bank, but to facilities in the Greater Houston area that need ready made food! That program has been going on, if memory serves me correctly for about 25 years. Those are the things people don't hear about....sadly.

Steve Cotton said...

Melaque may not beat San Miguel de Allende on many things, but garbage pickup is one. The garbage truck makes its rounds early in the morning in my neighborhood, but there is no need for us to do a Jesse Owens impersonation -- because we leave it bagged up in our brazier-style containers at any time of the day.

The dogs seldom bother the bags. And I think I know why. I never put any foodstuff in my garbage. That goes to the compost heap. The only problem I ever had was with the young boys who grab the gringo garbage bags at night to search for tossed financial information. The remainder of the contents were usually dumped around the corner. My neighbor, the grandmother of the recent graduate, keeps watch now to prevent early snatches.

Unknown said...

Tony Mandola's use to take unused leftovers from catering events to the School of the Blind, which was just around the corner from the old W Gray location.....stuff like blackened snapper, gumbo, stuffed jalapenos, bread puddin and banana key lime pie. Can you imagine what a treat, and change of pace?

Babs said...

I can't imagine why school boys in Melaque would want financial information. I've never heard of such a thing, really. The trucks go through centro more then once a day but my little Colonia only gets service twice a week. And, now for some reason when Javier leaves here I have a tiny trash can full. No longer the big black trash bags. Hmmm, another thing I've learned in Mexico is not to waste! I just realized that.....

Babs said...

Dana J, you made my mouth water by just listing those wonderful foods.
The Mandola's, D'Amicos and Pizzitolas - all related are a huge great family.

The Houston Press blog posted a story today about the founding families of food in Houston. Oh, the stories I could tell and the memories I have of many of them. It's a great article. Track it down.

Peter Kouwenhoven said...

People here have become so trash savvy that collection is only once very two weeks. However, organics are picked up once per week.

Since we have adopted the European style of shopping for our dinner on a daily basis our waste has gone to practically nothing. We don't have what we don't need. Simple. So nothing goes bad and nothing gets wasted. Buy today what you need today and only as much as you need. Try it, it works!

We also cook in large quantities stuff like spaghetti sauce etc. And fill up the freezer.

Babs said...

Peter, I HATE to shop and try to only go to the store once every two weeks, except for fruits and veggies.

I too cook a casserole or something like that and then freeze the majority of it in individual portions and freeze. I really only have one small trash can, twice a week which isn't even one large bag....so I'm doing much better then when I moved here, for sure.