Cartoneros of Buenos Aires

15 Jul

It is not my intention to post a load of poems on this blog, but I am currently working on translations of the Argentinian poet Joaquín O. Giannuzzi (1924-2004). None of his work, as far as I know, has yet been published in English. This poem reminded me of the cartoneros of Buenos Aires, an impoverished, nocturnal tribe who make a meagre living by collecting and selling discarded cardboard and other rubbish left out on the street.

Incidentally, as Jorge Fondebrider has pointed out, the poem was written 30 years before the cartoneros became an everyday sight, but the ideas in the poem linked to my own memories of them, so I added the images.

GARBAGE AT DAYBREAK

At dawn today, out in the street

possessed by a kind

of sociological curiosity

I rummaged with a stick in the surreal world

of garbage bins.

I realized that things don’t die but are murdered.

I saw outraged papers, fruit peel, glass

of an unknown colour, strange and tortured metals,

rags, bones, dust, inexplicable substances

that rejected life. My attention was caught by

a doll’s torso, with a dark stain,

a sort of rosy meadow death.

It seems that culture consists in

the thorough tormenting of matter

and pushing it through an implacable intestine.

Almost a comfort to reflect that not even this excrement

is obliged to abandon the planet.

 

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2 Responses to “Cartoneros of Buenos Aires”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Xenophobia and racism against Chinese and Koreans in Argentina « The Plaid Bag Connection - January 8, 2012

    […] on the street. A Taiwanese immigrant friend of mine who lived in Monserrat was often heckled by cartoneros (trash pickers working in the informal economy) who worked on his street at night. They would yell “¡Chino! ¡Chino!” (Chinese! […]

  2. Xenophobia and racism against Chinese and Koreans in Argentina | The Plaid Bag Connection - August 18, 2013

    […] on the street. A Taiwanese immigrant friend of mine who lived in Monserrat was often heckled by cartoneros (trash pickers working in the informal economy) who worked on his street at night. They would yell “¡Chino! ¡Chino!” (Chinese! […]

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