By Jorge Adorno
Throughout my life I have always been struck by how music, as a part of culture, is a white flag in many circumstances of life, especially in times of conflict. Even the Germans found time to attend concerts during war.
The other day I went to the education center in the Asuncion neighborhood of Cateura called Vy’a Renda, meaning Place of Joy in the Guaraní language, where I found youths building their future in a place of extreme poverty. It’s a school with curtains drawn over broken windows, but which houses diamonds in the rough in the form of children studying music and playing in an orchestra. Their instruments are built of material recycled from trash, giving the orchestra its name, the Orchestra of Recycled Instruments of Cateura.
The orchestra’s director, Favio Chavez, was an amateur musician apart from being an environmental engineer at the Cateura municipal garbage dump. In 2006 he decided to help the children of the dozens of garbage pickers by forming a music school with the five instruments he managed to acquire.
He soon had more students than instruments, until one of the pickers named Nicolas Gomez presented him with an instrument he had made from material recycled from the dump.
Mr. Gomez, 48, considers himself a self-taught musician. He has gray hair and worn clothes, and a great affection for animals and music. His favorite instrument is the cello. This man of great simplicity reveals that he feels proud each time he hears children and youths play the guitars, violins and cellos that he builds, and that his favorite sound is one that comes from those recycled instruments.