The Beast of Zone 3
Gold Rush Fever at Guatemala City's Deadly Dump
Guatemala is home to Central America’s largest city. This city is divided into 15 zones, but zone 3 is by far the most dangerous of all. The place is also known as ‘Basurero’, which means ‘dump’. This is the spot where most of the city’s garbage gets thrown.
Many people live close to the dump and thousands work there everyday. They scavenge among the piles of rubbish, trying to find something of value that will make them some money. They look mostly for items that can be recycled such as cans, bottles, plastic, paper, cardboard, etc. However some of them say that they have found silver, gold, money, cell phones, and other valuables among the garbage. Occasionally they also find body parts; most recently it was a head with a bullet hole in it.
There is a section of the dump called La Mina (the mine), where people work illegally collecting scrap metal. The conditions at the mine are very dangerous; the stench is almost unbearable and an extremely contaminated river runs through the place making it a deadly environment. The river is Las Vacas and it carries raw sewage from Guatemala City into the Gulf of Honduras in the Caribbean Sea. The possibility of contracting some type of disease from spending time in the mine is high.
Frequent rains produce landslides at the mine at least twice every year. Recently there was one that buried about 20 people under tons of garbage. Rescuers braved the overwhelming smell and toxic waters to find the missing workers. It was a sobering experience in which many realized how futile this lifestyle really is.
One man who works at the mine believes that there’s a curse on the place just because of the number of lives it has claimed. He says he has heard evil spirits laughing and talking about him.
An international gang, known as Mara Salvatrucha, controls the dump. They have such a degree of power over the area that many residents live in constant fear for their lives. The gang decides who gets to live and whose life is a liability. They make money from extortion, murder contracts, and burglaries. Many of the gang leaders are in prison and they run their violent operations from there.
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