Cateura, Paraguay is an entire town that is built on and around a large landfill. The citizens of Cateura work long days picking through the debris, finding things that they can fix, recycle, or transform, and then sell, in order to make their living. Due to the poor conditions and utter lack of resources provided families in the area, the children of the city often fall victim to drug use and gang activity. In order to try and reverse this negative trend in the area’s youth, a music teacher named Fabio managed to set up a music program for them. In a city where the price of a violin is literally more than that of a house, the classes filled up quickly, and the program soon had more students than it had instruments.
One day, however, when some of the men were going through the piles of oddments that others had discarded, they found the shell of a broken violin buried amongst the garbage. They knew they could make something out of it, and the idea came to them to try and fix it out of the unlikeliest of materials.
Today there is an entire “recycled orchestra” called The Landfill Harmonic that features Fabio’s students playing their recycled instruments – and doing so beautifully. One would never guess that the soaring notes were coming from pieces of trash that we would normally have deemed worthless.
Instead, says one young girl, “My life would be worthless without music” (emphasis my own).
And I agree. Or, as Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.”
Check out the great video below featuring the recycled instruments!
My favorite quote? The moment when Fabio says, “People realize that we shouldn’t throw away trash carelessly, well, we shouldn’t throw away people either.” I think that just about sums it up, don’t you? I love stories like this, that bring people like Fabio into the spotlight for all of the great work they do, and the inspiration they’re spreading!
“The world sends us garbage…We send back music.”