Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

The Cateura Dump, in the Bañado Sur area along the Paraguay River, is the final dumping site for more than 1,500 tons of solid waste each day. Poor waste management has caused the country’s most essential water supply to become dangerously polluted and the environment contaminated.
When Luis Szaran came to Cateura to start a music school as part of his Sonidos de la Tierra (“Sounds of the Earth”) music program, he and music teacher Fabio Chavez realized that they had more students than instruments. But thanks to the resourcefulness of Cola, a Cateurian garbage picker, the orchestra came together, now featuring violins, cellos, and other instruments artfully put together from trash.

Executive Producer, Alejandra Nash, and Producer, Juliana Penaranda-Loftus, are making a film about their experiences in Cateura. Donations are received through their fiscal sponsor Creative Visions Foundation, a non profit organization that supports projects that utilize media and the arts to create positive change in the world.

Nina Mashurova spoke, over email, with Founder and Executive Producer, Alejandra Nash, and Producer, Juliana Penaranda-Loftus, about their experiences in Cateura, the making of the film, and their hopes for the documentary and here’s an excerpt:
Cateura is built on a landfill. Where does all that garbage come from? Is it all from Paraguay? How did the city come to be built there?
AN: All the solid waste stream from Asuncion (the capital) and the metropolitan area goes to the Landfill in the outskirts of Cateura. People in the actual town of Cateura don’t have any dedicated place where they can throw their waste.
JPL: There used to be a big lagoon in the Cateura area. Over time, the lagoon was filled with garbage, debris and other materials that come from the city. Displaced people that were so poor they had no otherplace to go started occupying and building the homes over the top of the waste. That’s why we can say that Cateura is literary build on the top of a former landfill.Can you tell me a little about the conditions in Cateura, from your personal experiences?
AN: The hygiene and environmental issues are a real problem. Even thought they live by the landfill, the infrastructure of the place is so under-developed that they do not even have a garbage pickup orany kind of trash system in place. So people throw their garbage around, some burn them, creating a polluted area filled with trash everywhere. Their water creek is completely polluted. We hope to bring some awareness on these issues as well, and assist in creating opportunities to support a plan that will tackle this issue. read more
Paraguay, bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest, lies on the banks of the Paraguay River. Due to its central location in South America, it is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América, or the Heart of America.
The Guaraní, the indigenous people of South-America, have been living in Paraguay since before the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, when Paraguay became part of the Spanish colonial empire.
Following independence from Spain in 1811, Paraguay was ruled by a series of dictators. During the Paraguayan War (1864–1870), the country not only lost 60% to 70% of its population but also large amounts of territory. Alfredo Stroessner ruled a large part of the 20th century and Paraguay was one of South America’s longest lived military dictatorships. In 1989 Stroessner was toppled and free elections were celebrated in 1993.
The capital and largest city in Paraguay is Asunción and the official languages are Spanish and Guaraní. Paraguay remains one of the South America’s poorest and least-developed countries.