Gringo in Guadalajara

Trashing the City

Even designated trash areas often become unmanageable.

An unfortunate issue in Mexican public life is trash.  The truth is that is it is far too prevalent in places that it should not be.  The reasons for this are similar to Mexico's traffic problems.  The infrastructure is simply not organized enough to handle the problem.  In the case of garbage, there are not enough trash receptacles, recycle bins or closed-lid garbage bins.  And that's not even getting into the question of recycling.


This infrastructure issue leads people to throwing their trash any old place --- often in piles in parks or along the side of streets.  Even when trash receptacles are available, the system breaks down.

The lack of a solid garbage infrastructure also leads to unfortunate attitudes among the citizens. A kind of culture develops in which people do not think of public space as their own.  It is hard to buy into a system of responsibility when the system it is based on is clearly breaking down.  Thus, many citizens here attend to their own spaces fastidiously while letting public spaces go.  Individuals seem to have their own plots of space which they preserve intensely while anything outside is seen as a free-for-all.

This phenomenon is often seen in apartment buildings in Guadalajara.  You approach a building to find peeling paint, graffitied walls, weeds everywhere and a broken door.  Then you step into an apartment within the building and you find a beautifully decorated, well cared-for home.  It's as if anything beyond the line of the door frame doesn't count.

Unfortunately, nature and trash often go together in GDL.

The cultural difference here is unfortunate for Mexico.  While the United States is headed toward multiple choice composting options in most trash containers, Mexico seems to be lucky to have trash collected at all.  It will be interesting to see if cultural attitudes in Mexico force the government to do a better job with trash or if government action leads to a change in the attitude of citizens.  Or perhaps nothing will change at all...