Casas de Carton
How sad sounds the rain on the roofs of cardboard
How sad live my people in the houses of cardboard
How sad live my people in the houses of cardboard
These are the opening lines of Casas de Carton, the ballad for the struggling poor in the countries of Latin America. It is an appropriate theme song for those who live in houses of cardboard and plastic sheeting in areas in and around San Salvador.
They are the marginalized of El Salvador's society, the poorest of the urban poor, who live in squatters shacks on land which is not their own. Since December, new "communities" have sprung up around Soyapango, which neighbors San Salvador. The growth of this marginal community has been chronicled recently in El Salvador's digital media including a story in this week's El Faro and in Contra Punto.
The shanty town featured in El Faro is a dusty place, built next to and above an old municipal dump. The presence of methane and other gases from the decomposing garbage below makes it an unfit place for building houses, but for those who are desperate for a place to live, the risks are ignored. There were promises and rumors of promises, which led more than one thousand people to locate here, on the hope that they would be given a piece of land they could call their own. They build their "casas de carton" from bamboo, scrap wood and cardboard, plastic sheeting and anything else which can serve as four walls and a roof. This photogallery from El Faro shows scenes of daily life a a community on the margins.
When journalist Juan JoseDalton wrote about the situation of these shanty towns, he quoted statistics from the Salvadoran Association of Architects and Engineers which find a housing deficit of 540,000 homes in a country with a population slightly less than six million. He notes that the inability to obtain dignified housing for this segment of the population is due primarily to the inability to obtain a loan and the lack of formal job opportunities.
The housing deficit is a symptom of poverty, but it is also a cause perpetuating poverty. The residents of these communities face disease; their children don't attend school; they are constantly at risk of losing what little they have to the weather. They are also constantly at risk from being expelled by the actual owner of the property. It is a multi-faceted problem, and one which needs multi-faceted solutions at both the national and municipal level and with support from both public and private sources.
The complete song Casas de Carton can be heard in this YouTube video. The pictures in the video aren't from El Salvador, but they still convey the reality of urban shanty towns.
All this in regard to what some protesters shouted at him in front of SF civic center and the hotel where he was staying.
Is he going to take visitors to see only the new buildings, mansions and shopping malls?
But poverty and deprivation are the natural state of Man, and it is only through the work of industry and commerce that wealth is created.
Wouldn't these poor people's lives change completely if they could work in a mine or a textile shop?
Sure, for wealthy Europeans a "mine" or a "textile shop" are cuss words, an insult: but for the poorest of the poor, such a job would mean an actual house, with plumbing, and access to Social Security.
People from the U.S. forget their great-grandparents worked the coal mines of the Ruhr and the sweatshops of Manchester, and that it was such backbreaking work that fed them and took their children out of poverty. They now ignore this, and conspire to deny Salvadoreans the same opportunities their ancestors had.
Let's not keep denying opportunity and hope to the people of the casas de carton.
MINING IS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH DEVELOPMENT IN EL SALVADOR. Only 2% of profits will stay in the country. The only jobs created for Salvadorans will be low-paying and dangerous. The use of tons of cyanide to extract tiny gold particles from rock will contaminate rivers and land used as sources of drinking water and for farming (an amount the size of a grain of rice is sufficient to be lethal). Large amounts of privately owned land, some of which is reforested and some of which is used for agriculture, will be destroyed. Mining will result in the displacement of individuals, families, and entire communities—where will they go? Some of them I imagine to the type of perilous squatter communities described in this post.
While the promises of mining sound wonderful, the realities of the negative consequences for El Salvador can’t be ignored. Rather than lifting people out of poverty, mining will only exacerbate the perilous economic and social conditions that already exist.
Low paying and dangerous in relation to what?
I can assure you these workers would no longer have to "live" on a casa de cartón on top of a municipal dump.
See: you are actually suggesting people are better off unemployed and half-living in the inhumane situation described in the article.
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