Landfill Harmonic: From Paraguay to the world

A poverty-stricken town in Paraguay built on landfill has used rubbish to create instruments for an orchestra that is getting worldwide attention.

Cateura is built on a rubbish dump and its residents are some of the poorest in the world. Almost everything in the town in constructed from reclaimed landfill items.

This is thanks to the work of Gancheros, people who sort through the rubbish to find the treasure within the trash.

Some of the trash is turned into instruments and they have inspired young locals to expand their horizons.

Ganchero Nicolas with a double bass made from a chemical drum
Ganchero Nicolas with a double bass made from a chemical drum

Ada Mirabel Rios Bordados, 16, has big dreams fuelled by her strong passion and talent for music.

She plays a violin made from an old tin, it is her most prized possession and she carries it with her everywhere.

“The music taught me how to feel more alive… it really helped to change my life, to be a different person," Ada said.

“I want to be a musician. Being able to help the community and teach other kids music.”

Many residents of Cateura now have a passion for music; and it’s all thanks to a few special people.

Nicolas Gomez is a former Ganchero and now has a tiny workshop in the slum town turning rubbish from the dump into extraordinary instruments.

“Almost everything comes from the landfill,” Kola says, showing reporter Denham Hitchcock a double base, "It’s a drum, a chemical drum."

Favio Chavez has a background in classical music and used it to teach children how to play the instruments. Now, he has created an entire orchestra.

Chavez was an engineer at the dump and said he was shocked at the conditions of the workers, who earn just $1 each day.

“[There’s] no school. And [kids] end up working up there in the landfill," he says.

“People here in Cateura see the garbage not as garbage… here garbage is something that you can use to do something else.”

“With the kids, we try to change their minds, we try to change their families. We try to change the community and we try to change a little bit of Paraguay.”

Fiorella Migliore, Former Miss Paraguay in the Miss World Pageant, works as the ambassador for the orchestra.

“Those instruments are I think a gift from God, really, you can see God in every instrument. And it’s changing everything," Fiorella said.

“Hearing the song played by these instruments, you can’t ask for more. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. It gives you goose bumps.”

Fiorella Migliore
Fiorella Migliore

Known now as Landfill Harmonic, the orchestra from the tip town in Asuncion is now touring the world and the subject of a documentary.

They do this with donations and invitations to perform, travelling as far as Amsterdam; and playing with some of the world’s biggest bands including Metallica.

“It’s such a lesson for everybody. It doesn’t matter what you have or you don’t have, it’s what you do with what you have.”

How to contribute to the Junkyard Orchestra

If you would like to contribute to the Cateura junkyard orchestra – or even to invite them to play, visit their website here

For five years, the orchestra from the Cateura landfill in Asuncion, Paraguay, has worked with a documentary crew:

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