PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis thesis is an intensive study on the Guatemala City garbage dump community - a community of scavengers who work informally in the city's largest sanitary landfill. I argue that the garbage dump community is a 'forgotten' wasteland- a community that has continuously been treated as a subaltern population by the Guatemalan government, environmentalists, citizens, and the global economy at large. This thesis provides a comprehensive history of Latin American economic development and transformation into modern day neoliberal, free market economic policies as a form of hegemonic neocolonialism. The report then provides a comprehensive timeline of sanitation policies in Guatemala City and how they have perpetuated the notion of a 'sanitary space' free of contamination. Following the overall development of national sanitation policies, I investigate the waste management system in Guatemala in relation to the city's landfill. I argue that waste management policies have negated the need for a formal recycling system as well as transformational social service policies for the scavenger community. I give a brief snapshot of urbanization and modernization in the history of Guatemala City and its impact on a division in economic, social, and political powers. These separate, yet intertwined history’s support the notion that the garbage being scavenged and recycled is a product of modernist development. In addition, I provide statistics on the scavenger population and the informal economy of scavenging in Guatemala City. I use the concept of subalternity and conceptualized space to represent how these complex histories have created a socio-spatial boundary of subalternity of the garbage dump community. This research was done under the supervision of an expert on Guatemalan history, a Guatemalan anthropologist, and an American geographer. This thesis is an incorporation of empirical evidence from academic journals, primary source newspaper articles and photos from the CIRMA (Center for Mesoamerican Research) historical archives in Guatemala, and statistical data and studies from the University of San Carlos in Guatemala and the Guatemalan government. Although no formal interviews or use of human subjects took place during the compilation of this research, I did spend time working in the garbage dump community which gave me a personal perspective that is also incorporated into my research. This research is to serve as a starting point for continued investigation of a lack of social policies that directly affect the garbage dump community in addition to highlighting the adverse struggles the community faces as it is continuously marginalized through national politics, economics, and social structures.
Degree ProgramHonors College
Latin American Studies and Political Science