16 March, 2019

Today’s topic is garbage. Trash in México is not like most of the USA or Canada, well at least not in Mazatlán.

In the early 1980’s I lived in New York City for several months. Garbage there was bagged and put on the street for pickup. Larger establishments may have had dumpsters in alleys, but in the mid-afternoons, sidewalks would suddenly contain large amounts of bagged trash. This is why garbage strikes in New York City always made national news – can you imagine a city of that size with trash accumulating on sidewalks? I’m pretty sure that we only had pickup twice a week, but I could be wrong; It’s been a few years and remembering trash collection schedules wasn’t on my list of things to treasure.

Mazatlán is very similar in the way they handle trash. My neighborhood has pickups three times a week; on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. There are also street sweepers (yes, people with brooms and trash cans on carts) that go through the neighborhoods keeping the sidewalks free of debris. Well, at least in theory.

The reality is that neighborhoods have very different appearances depending on the quality of pickups and sweeping. The upscale neighborhoods always look immaculate. You won’t often find trash littering the sidewalks and streets there. In the working neighborhoods things are a little different.

First, we often have people who go through the bags of trash on the streets before pickup. They are looking for anything they can sell, and in the process the trash is now lose and takes up twice the area it did when their bags weren’t violently ripped open. I will say that the trash pickup guys do a pretty good job of getting most of the trash into their truck, and are well deserving of any tips they may receive at holiday time. They also go through the bags, but as they’re putting them in the truck, not on the street.

Second, the sweepers play a BIG role in the appearance of the neighborhood. The woman who does mine is more intent on talking on her cell phone than doing the job, so only the larger items are swept up. No propinas (tips) for her. There are lots of street animals in my neighborhood, and for some reason the sidewalk is their baño of choice. You might think that the street sweeper could take care of some of it. Nope. But knowing it might be there keeps you focused on where you’re walking and you avoid the notorious uneven sidewalk accidents!

Third, it seems someone is always doing construction, and when they do there are piles of sand, bricks, and demo materials left on the sidewalks. Being México, there isn’t much of a sense of urgency – these can sit for a couple of months before the project is done, then another month or two before someone decides to clean it up.

Someone in government here came up with what I think is a brilliant idea. When they repaved the streets, they didn’t go all the way to the sidewalks. This left a little gutter on each side of the road, and when it rains, the water clears from the streets (instead of flooding) and washes the smaller trash away. It worked pretty well last rainy season! Unfortunately, the rainy season is only a few months of the year.

You may think that I’m upset that there’s trash in my neighborhood. I’m not. It’s part of the experience and after a couple of weeks here your brain doesn’t even process it any more. Could it be better? Yes. Does it matter? Not unless I step in poop (haven’t yet)!

** Someone just gave me a 5 minute firework show! They were very pretty, but now I have to check on my four legged amigos. They don’t care for booms.

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