The sound of silence
No, she's not comfortably listening to her favorite songs. What at first glance looks like headphones is just an old cloth headband she found in the dump and wears proudly together with a couple of plastic necklaces. She doesn't even know what those shiny discs she found in the smoking garbage are for. She doesn't know that they probably contain melodies that would make her dream or simply bits of information that would show her that there is a completely different world to the one she lives in. Here, in her world, the only sound she can hear is the sound of silence, interspersed with the buzzing of flies and the crackling of fires.
The night shift
Night has already begun to slowly cover the plain with a thick, cold blanket of darkness when the last truck of the day has just dumped a load of fresh garbage. It's time for the night shift to attach lanterns with rubber bands to their heads and set fires to scavenge the new mountain that has just formed. Suddenly the plain comes alive and lights up in a kind of colorful inferno, where whoever arrives first could mean the difference in feeding the family or knowing the real hell of trying to fall asleep hungry the next day.
Little Mary's treasures
There is little left on the plain, scavenged eagerly by men and women seeking everything they can grab to eat, wear, or trade for a handful of coins. But there are still small things that make Maria's eyes light up when she finds them! They are twisted metal scraps half-buried in the ashes of the fires that burned all night. They weigh only a few grams, but for little Maria are real treasures because they can mean the difference between having food tomorrow or having to fall asleep hungry again.
The red shift
The sun has already set on the horizon and night is creeping in, languidly blanketing the plain with its dark, cold cloak. During the day the dump was eagerly scavenged by men, women and children, their fragile lives depend on it. There was hardly anything left that could be rescued from the amalgam of waste that stretches as far as the eye can see. But eyes used to the darkness and the toxic fumes pouring out of the still burning piles of garbage, can still rescue pieces of a world they are not a part of and remind them what color life is made of.
The end of the line
How far will the human being go to survive? What extent of sacrifices will he accept to satisfy the hunger that burns in his stomach? What level of despair will he have to face to be forced to plunge into a world that we no longer recognize as human? What have we all done, or failed to do, for him to have arrived here, the end of the line from where there is no return?
Too soon she was called to be a mother. While the mother of both is working hard to salvage pieces of survival from the dump, she wanders through the desolate landscape carrying her little brother on her back. There is nothing here to spark a smile or a happy cheer on her face, just the monotony of the debris and the certainty she has to take care of her brother every day with flies as her only company. She does not know and probably will never know how other children's childhoods look like, who learn to read and write, who play with real toys, and who don’t have to carry such a heavy burden of responsibility on their backs so soon
The dream doll
A naked and dismembered doll thrown away by another child for having lost interest, is the only thing this little girl has to play with and dream of princesses. In the late afternoon, after a hard day's work helping her mother rescuing pieces of survival from the dump, she finally found a moment of peace and tranquility. A moment she chose to be alone with her doll and be a child again. While combing the doll's disheveled hair with her hands, the only thing she can do to try to beautify her, she imagines how beautiful this princess would be if she were clothed and had arms and legs. Here, where she lives and play every day with toy scraps, the imagination is the only place she can go to dream and be a real child for brief moments
The freedom of nudity
They were born and raised with the sea right there, tempting, welcoming, challenging. Endless hours of playing in the warm, shallow waters of the bay stirred their imagination and inventiveness, pushing them to perfect their dives. Each of them rehearses theatrical gestures on top of an old fishing boat before launching themselves into the air in graceful arcs that culminate in perfect entries into the water. All of them try to go higher and reach further in the dives, in a competition where the only winners are the laughs and a contagious joy. Freedom and a perfect communion with nature are their companions in everything they do, there is only water, earth and air between them and surrounding them. Nudity, just as innocent and natural as the water they dive into, is one of the expressions of that freedom and communion, bringing additional beauty to these moments of pure fun
Nobody remembers her real name, she probably doesn't either. Everyone calls her "Chatinha" (boring girl) because from a very young age she liked to lean against people, perhaps seeking just a touch of affection. Chatinha is an orphan, she never knew her father or her mother. The two balloons she found intact in a pile of garbage quickly lose their magic and everything is the same again at the top of this hill. Once again, dusk comes hand in hand with loneliness and sadness
The kingdom of flies
Indifferent to an army enraged by the invasion of its territory already conquered and taken for granted, this man disputes scraps of food with the flies. It could be an apocalyptic scenery in which only insects and a few fortunate human beings would have survived, postponing every day their end to some future. But no. On the other side of the plain, cautiously far away from the pestilence of the toxic fumes rising from the burning garbage, there are people like him who live supposedly normal lives and who do not suspect that this kingdom of flies exists
To a lesser God
Lifting his eyes to the sky and desperately seeking a sign or a revelation in response to so many questions and pleas, seems to be the only thing left to him. Although the answers are delayed as if they were always being postponed to the next day, faith is unshakable and once again he begs for all that has always been denied to him. Certainly not much, because he has probably already resigned himself to being son of a lesser God
Yes, there is a human being here! Indistinct, almost imperceptible. Wrapped in rags and in an old tablecloth, wearing a boot and a cloth shoe scavenged from the dump, he mingles with the chaos of recently burned debris, still hot and smoking. Camouflaged in this gloomy mimetism, he seems to be having a picnic, but in fact he is seeking bottles and cans to sell, a silent war he fights every day witnessed only by the flies
The end of the day is approaching rapidly and with it darkness will cover the dump like a thick blanket. Alongside their parents, they have scavenged through the leftover trash all day, looking for something they could grasp. A piece of clothing, a dismembered doll, or a plastic car without wheels could put a smile on their sad and tired faces. But no, today they have been defeated! As if they were exhausted soldiers who have fought a losing battle, they let their weapons hang down. Discouragement and disillusionment are evident. They are left with tomorrow, which only fate knows if it will be like so many other defeats
How far is the future?
Future is indecipherable, challenging, unattainable when we want to reach it before the time it has set for revealing itself. But for some lives it is even more distant, it seems to be part of an uncertain or one that is always postponed. It is even cruel as it seems to wish to lengthen the days of those who struggle every day to survive. As much as this mother stares into the horizon, far beyond the sad world that surrounds her, the future she longs for herself and the fragile life she carries on her back remains too distant.
All the games he could have invented have already been exhausted, all dreams of finding something in the dump that could put a smile on his face faded away like the smoke from the burning heaps of waste around him, all the moments when his eyes sparkled for something that aroused his interest now belong only to a distant memory. Now there is only a vacant and gloomy gaze that cannot hide the crusts of a past that can no longer be rewritten, now there is only someone who feels hopeless as an adult because he can't remember being a child.
The weight of a life
What is the weight of a life? Here, lives depend on what can fit inside an old, bumpy sheet that is no longer of value to anyone else. Cardboard scraps, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans are exchanged for a few coins at the end of a hard day's work as the sun sets on the horizon. This is the weight of these lives. How light and fragile are these lives that barely fit in one hand at the end of each day!
The little fairy
She resembles a fairy but is a fairy who lives in a kingdom where magic never seems to happen. Wearing a dirty, crumpled dress that once brightened the carnival of a little girl she doesn't know, she digs through a pile of debris with her magic wand, a piece of iron that helps her find anything that make her eyes sparkle. However, the treasures this little fairy eagerly seeks do not have the fascination of those that fill the real fairy tales, nor does her kingdom have the colors and enchantment of the magical realms
The silent wound
She wandered barefoot in a desolate landscape all day long. The broken glass, the rusted pieces of cans, and the twisted irons could not wound her. The real wound is now opening up, at the end of the day. It is when the cold of the night begins to batter down on the silent plain, stripped of the warmth of a house or a simple tree, that she realizes she has not found even a toy in the amalgam of debris that stretches to the horizon. It could be a doll without arms and legs or even a car without wheels thrown away by other children. It could be anything that would cheer her up and would not make her feel the pain of this silent wound
The chalice of life
Indifferent to the chaos that surrounds her and where she has to work hard to rescue scraps of survival, this mother breastfeeds her child in a moment of complicity of enormous tenderness and love. That is all she has to give him, and she always does it with dedication and care, even when survival is postponed to the next day. Under the proud look of the mother, he holds her breast in a delicate gesture while he sucks the sap of life, as if it were a precious chalice
The meaning of being mother
She is a young mother, but she learned early on that she has to be a mother and a working woman at the same time. Since sunrise she has been working here, sitting on top of a mountain of empty seashells that her mother, grandmother, and aunts helped to grow. They all patiently broke each of these seashells with a heavy railroad screw, to sell the mollusks in the markets. All of them took care of their children like this, close to them while they worked hard until exhaustion became unbearable. They all knew the meaning of being a mother, they all came back to this place and were mothers like this every day
Need for a change
Changes here do not depend on whims or wills. The simple choice of which shoes to wear or whether he prefers one color or shape over others, are options that do not exist here. The only thing that really matters is whether those shoes, that he found among the steaming debris and that were discarded by other people, actually fit his foot. As with his shoes, he is helpless in front of his destiny and he cannot cross over to the other side of the fence of life, the one where people discard old shoes. How far these changes are from those we have been used to and do not really value!
A time for love
She is a mother like any other. But here, in the chaotic and desolate landscape of the dump where she lives, she seems to scrutinize the horizon in search of a destiny different from the one she has always known and where survival seems to be the only thing that is part of it. It is a moment of anguish and anxiety, but it is also a moment of enormous beauty and peacefulness as she breastfeeds her child. It is a time for love even if she knows that tomorrow will be ungrateful for her again
From behind his mother, who keeps him firmly tied to her by a cloth even while she works hard from sunrise to sunset, he threw a hand in my direction. I may never come to know the true meaning of this gesture. A silent, still unconscious plea for help that he will surely need in the future? An invitation to play with someone who has changed the chaotic and boring landscape, the only one he has known since he opened his eyes? Whatever the answer the future may bring, it has been etched in my soul how fragile he is and how strong this mother has to be
The dump ballet
One of them just found a ball while scavenging in the dump, a reason to momentarily forget their hard work and play a heated soccer game. There are no teams or age breakdowns, they play everyone against everyone else, the goal is to outwit the others with challenging touches and stay in possession of the ball as long as possible. Bare feet, flip-flops and shoes without pairs also recovered from the dump, compete for the empty ball on the dusty ground, in an elegant and improvised choreography. A simple empty ball has thus turned the heavy and gloomy working environment of the dump into a wonderful moment of joy
The scale of life
While carrying her child on her back, this woman wanders through the dump collecting pieces of metal to sell, the only thing of value left after the possibility of finding food scraps has already been exhausted. The fumes and toxic flies are his only companions in this desolate landscape, she has already given up hope of looking upwards and finding help. Only at the end of the day will she know how much the weight of her day's work is worth, when the bits of metal discarded by consumer society are weighed in the scale. A scale that, on the other plate, has the weight of a life. How fragile is this balance that has to be renewed every day! How fragile is the scale of life!