Almost Invisible:

Recyclers in Bogotá

In Bogotá, Colombia, there are more than 10,000 people making a living from informal recycling.

These people, who live on the edge of society, are often called Invisibles.

The term "Invisibles" is based on the fact that most people discriminate against or completely ignore informal recyclers.

Night and day, recyclers walk through the city digging for recyclables in people's rubbish.

On average, recyclers walk daily about 18 km in a 10-hour period, 6 days a week.

Streets are cleaned every night thanks to the tireless efforts of thousands of recyclers.

Once their workday is over, the Invisibles go home just like any of us.

Alberto is 50 years old. He was a hippie in his youth and still enjoys his freedom.

He has a dog named Lula. She is just as independent as Alberto and sometimes disappears for days.

La Loca (crazy) is his beloved. They met each other at a care center for homeless people and quickly fell in love.

After years of recycling, both have collected a great number of objects which they haphazardly store.

Alberto refuses to neglect his hair. He takes great pride in keeping it clean and even silky.

Freedom comes at a price. Life might not be always comfortable.

When things go well, Alberto can earn about 7 USD a day.

After turning in their recyclables for cash, a discussion ensues as to how to spend their earnings.

Every other day they buy food, they really do not want to feed themselves with others people's waste.

Once a week they enjoy fish, which is their favorite food.

Over the past ten years, they have sustained one another and enjoyed life together, creating, as it were, their own little world.

Alberto says that he does not pay attention to other people. He does not "see" them as he goes about his life and work, just as they do not "see" him. Ironically enough, he considers other people, and not himself, true Invisibles.

Key words:  Colombia, identity, society, ideas.

Published in catorce6 environmental magazine