The Humanitarian Crisis in Guatemala City’s Immense Garbage Dump


The basurero neighborhood is desperately poor, lacks basic social services, and offers residents little hope of escaping.

In early January 2014, a fire broke out beneath the festering mountain of garbage that is Guatemala City’s dump. The fire department half-heartedly tried to extinguish the inferno with water and suffocate it with bulldozers full of dirt, but it refused to go out, fueled by the chemical waste and toxic refuse deep below the surface of the trash pile. Seen from an airplane approaching the impoverished nation’s airport, the acrid smoke billowing from the ugly gash in the center of the city looked like an open volcanic fault or the gates to hell.

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