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Managua, Nicaragua

La Chureca

The largest garbage dump in all of Central America is home to a tragic community that make their living from the refuse. 

Located in Nicaragua, the municipal landfill known as La Chureca (slang for “city dump”) is a massive open dumpster that has attracted a community of extremely impoverished citizens who came to the land to make a living and simply never left. 

Located on four square miles of land in Managua, Nicaragua, the huge dump site was established shortly after an earthquake destroyed a majority of the city in the early 1970’s. The rubble and waste was brought to the site, creating what is now the largest landfill in Central America. Soon after it was created impoverished citizens of the nearby areas began coming to the landfill to see what scraps or valuables they could sift from the detritus. As the landfill grew, so did the number of scavengers.

While most of the workers reporting to the landfill would simply arrive for the day and then leave when they had finished, some began to simply stay at the site, soon growing to a permanent community. Some created makeshift hovels out of the garbage while others build larger homes complete with fences and gardens. The group of permanent residents eventually grew to over a thousand members who would venture out into the sea of trash to look for valuable pieces of metal or plastic to sell or use in their constructions, or simply look for food.

At one point, the population of “Churequeros,” as they are known was almost 50% under the age of eighteen, and lived facing the constant threats of disease, wild animals, poisons and a host of other terrible conditions that all came along with living in a garbage dump. Recent years have seen some improvement with the creation of a processing and recycling plant which now employs and houses hundreds of the people living on the site.