There is a non-denominational church in the Golden Zone (tourist area) of Mazatlan call La Vina (The Vineyard) Church that has a feeding program at several of their outlying church satellites in poor neighborhoods and also at the Mazatlan city dump. We were interested in experiencing this mission so at 8:00 am we boarded the El Cid resort shuttle down to the southern El Cid hotel of El Moro and then walked for another 20 minutes to the La Vina church. By 8:30, we were enlisted in the production line of the church making 400 ham and cheese sandwiches for distribution to the less privileged people of Mazatlan barrios. After a couple of stops at satellite church sites to distribute half-sandwiches, oranges, and a bottle of water to the children, we finally made our way to the city dump. The official entrance to the dump was preceded by passage through a newly squatted or "invasion" area of paper, plastic, wooden, and brick houses patched together by the residents, using materials they find in the the dump. Because their use of this land is not legal or sanctioned by the city, these squatters do not have basic city services of water, sewage, or electricity, although a few enterprising individuals did illegally tap into the street lights to run electric lines to their patched together homes. There is a fee for all trucks and vans to enter the dump, but our fee was waived presumably due to the support of this ministry to provide food for the dump scavengers and in part, by sharing a sandwich with the entry gate guards. As we entered the official confines of the dump, the first thing to be noticed were the incredible numbers of black and red headed vultures circling overhead or patiently waiting in the nearby trees for tasty morsels of decomposed food. The other scavengers waiting or actively sorting through the garbage truck offerings were several very skinny dogs, white egret cranes, and lastly, people. The men, women, and young people were scurrying back and forth between garbage trucks, piles of fresh garbage, and a sorting area where they would turn in their bagfuls of scavenged garbage, plastic, or cardboard to brokers that would pay them and in turn send it down the road to recycling centers. Some of the coveted items like cardboard, sheets of plastic or metal were saved by individuals to use in building or expanding their homes adjacent to the dump. As the La Vina van pulled to a stop, there was an immediate shift in the 50 - 100 people scavenging in the dump to form an orderly line and wait patiently for their sandwich, orange, and water bottle. The attitude of these individuals was very polite and appreciative, but they wasted no time in getting their food and finishing lunch in order to get back to their “job”. Amazingly, there appeared to be a sense of entreprenerial spirit as they scoped out the various garbage trucks to identify those from the most wealthy neighborhoods that presumably held the most valuable garbage and recyclables.
La Vina satellite church (feeding centers) in one of the poor barrios of Mazatlan. It is very difficult to set up Protestant churches in Mexico but very easy to establish "feeding centers". This church serves as a community center, worship site, and place to prepare food to supplement the local children's diet.
I don't remember the name of young boy (nino) but he was quite determined to get his sandwich and then very confidently enjoyed it in the shade of the church van. He did mention that he had diez (10) hermanos (siblings). According to our church guide there does not appear to be any government sanctioned or supported family planning.
Leading into the city dump was an "invasion" area where people almost overnight move into an unclaimed area of either private or government land to set up their homes. As you can see the homes are quite flimsy being constructed with pieces of sheet metal, plastic, cardboard or in the best case scenario, wood. No utilities of course including potable water. There was one shallow well near a stream that people were routinely using for their drinking water, downstream from the dump.
In the "invasion" area there was a school albeit it constructed out of packing crates, odd bits of lumber and some scraps of sheet metal. it is important to notice though that the students were impeccably dressed in school uniforms - required by all Mexican schools whether private or public. As expected this school does not function well during rain or inclement weather, but nonetheless it does provide these kids with a chance to get some education. The church does conduct a "school mission" providing families with the $130/year needed for a uniform and school supplies, required by the school before students can attend.
At the dump there were several groups of scavengers making their living from other's garbage - stray dogs, vultures, white egrets, and people. Not children are allowed to scavenge due to a previous fatal accident with a garbage truck to a child. It appears that the adults are much better at dodging the trucks and payloads than children.
After the church van pulled into the dump, it didn't take long for a line of dump "workers" to form patiently waiting for their sandwich, orange, and water bottle. But no shoving, no butting line, or cross words spoken. In fact there appeared to be almost a camaraderie between these people as they went about their "job" of sorting through the garbage searching for anything of value that they could sell to recycling brokers.
This photo provides a more realistic look at the mountain of garbage generated by the city of Mazatlan, the scurrying people sorting through the garbage, and one young lad carry his bounty of cardboard to a sorting station for a few peso payment. Tough way to make a living but yet these people did have a certain degree of dignity in running their own business of sorts.