Los Cartoneros

PHOTO(s) OF THE WEEK: Dec. 28, 2007-Jan. 4, 2008


Cartonero Armando Hernandez Lamas, El Paso – 12/28/2007


Cartonero Alejandro Gonzalez, El Paso – 12/28/2007


Cartonero Hernandez in central El Paso


Cartonero Gonzalez, central El Paso


Armando Hernandez’ handmade tricicleta

Los Cartoneros

In a desert, on the border, nothing much gets wasted.

Cartoneros, paper haulers, collect discarded and surplus paper and card board from border streets and from border merchants and haul it on their customized ” tricicletas.” They then sell it to scrap buyers, located about a mile from the border shopping district in the Segundo barrio.

Some do this job for a lifetime.

Armando Hernandez Lamas has been a Cartonero since 1964.

The hand made vehicles haul as much as 250 pounds of cardboard.

The holiday season is a busy time for cartoneros and for paper recycling companies.

Hector Garcia, a manager at a central El Paso recycling company says that the holiday season produces “two to three times more paper than the rest of the year.”

The paper is shipped all over the world, he observes, including China, south America, Europe and Africa. Garcia says that “twenty years ago, ninety percent of paper was produced from new pulp and ten percent from recycled paper.” Now, he says, those statistics have reversed and the ratio is now ten percent new paper and ninety percent recycled.

For Hernandez, Gonzalez and the other cartoneros, nothing has changed. They haul paper to El Paso buyers who ship the paper out to the world.

At the end of each work day, Hernandez and Gonzalez export themselves. They cross back across the border to their homes in Juarez.

You may also like

1 Comment

  1. In our little outpost on the frontier, work is all we know. We have learned to work is to eat. We take pride in a job well done. From govenor to garbage man, we should do our job like we have to sign our names to it. We all have worth and dignity. Paz, amigos!

    Hey Bruce. How do they steer those things? Where is the back story?