Our two-month trip to Nicaragua fulfilled its purpose as a cathartic respite from all the crazy, but Trevor and I weren’t prepared for the heavier psychological aspects of living in a third world country. Outside the beautiful colonial cities, far away from pristine beaches and off the resorts, you’ll find intense inequality and poverty in most Central American countries.
The landfill community of El Limonal is on a whole other level.
We visited the community in late June, as part of a small group from Hotel Brisas Del Mar Nicaragua and Monty’s Beach Lodge, sponsored by Canadian businessman Brian Shular.
Students from St. Mary’s High School in Owen Sound, Canada, are shown the El Limonal landfill by local children on a school trip in March, 2017. Owen Sound and the Grey-Bruce area has close ties with Chinandega and Jiquilillo; many Canadians visit the area to “voluntour” with Canadian-owned hotels Monty’s Beach Lodge and Brisas Del Mar Nicaragua.
The residents of El Limonal live and work in an area known locally as the ‘circle of death.’ It’s a strip of land that was intended for use as a temporary refugee camp for those left homeless by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The second deadliest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history, Mitch destroyed an entire neighbourhood in the north Pacific Nicaraguan city of Chinandega. El Limonal was, at the time, the only city property large enough for the government to use for temporary housing.
Tucked between the city’s landfill, a large cemetery and a sewage facility, El Limonal is now a permanent community of about 3,000 residents. The political and socioeconomic factors that resulted in its being made a permanent settlement vary depending on who you ask, but the fact is that each day, many residents–adults and children alike–sift through the city’s trash in search of recyclables.
A good eight-hour day will net one of the residents a single US dollar, the reward for filling a massive garbage bag with pop cans and other metals scrounged out of a toxic sludge of spoiled food, biological waste, discarded chemicals and God only knows what else.
Excerpt: this was originally published at SeekingSanity.ca, where you can continue reading this article.