Photographers' Blog

Turning trash into dreams

Asuncion, Paraguay

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.

A surprisingly quiet ousting

By Marcos Brindicci

It was another one of those calls asking me, “Could you go to…”, one of the situations that photographers long for.

A new presidential crisis in Paraguay seemed ready to become a violent one because all the elements were there; armed clashes between landless peasant farmers and police had ended with 17 people killed (11 farmers and 6 policemen), the interior minister had resigned, and Congress was voting to impeach President Fernando Lugo. I cancelled my trip to northern Argentina for a rugby test match and booked the first flight to Asuncion, the next morning. As I arrived, I headed straight for Congress, where demonstrations were already underway as the impeachment trial began.

The impeachment trial happened lightning fast, as Congress gave Lugo only a couple of hours to prepare his defense. The Senate voted 39-4 to remove him the day after lawmakers in the Lower House agreed in a sudden, near-unanimous vote to impeach him. I had my tear gas mask with me, and Reuters’ veteran Paraguay photographer Jorge Adorno and stringer Mario Valdez were ready, but nothing really happened. At one point, as I was waiting at the Presidential Palace for Lugo to appear, we got word of clashes developing in front of the Congress, but it was just a small incident that was short-lived.

My cap from Korea

It was 9 a.m. in Paraguay when I heard on the radio RIOT IN TACUMBU PRISON. It had started at 8.

Police with dogs arrive at the Tacumbu prison as prisoners held hostages inside during an uprising for better conditions in Asuncion

The visual impact that a picture can cause is fully validated when it comes from a witness, and even more so when it comes from a danger zone. This is what happened on June 20th when the prisoners of the Esperanza ward of the Tacumbu prison took as hostages warden Mario Pairet and a group of guards.

I headed straight for the prison, thinking about how to describe the horrible spectacle that the protagonists, relatives and friends, and all those involved in some way, were enduring. I thought that when I arrived at the prison entrance the situation might be under control, but to my surprise it wasn’t.

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