Sunday, February 25, 2007

"You're so 'money'...and you don't even know it"

OK...a blog entry about Uruguay. (gasp!)

One of the (first) interesting things that a newcomer notices when they arrive in Montevideo are the horsedrawn garbage carts doing battle with peugots, fiats, citroen's, city buses and large trucks in downtown city traffic.

My first evening in Montevideo, staying at a hotel on one of the busier commercial streets around 2 am I was woken up by the sound of clipping hooves on the pavement. Even as jaded as I am, it's hard not to smile when a horse trots by with a garbage cart stacked to the hilt -- looking a little bit like the grinch that stole christmas' overloaded sled.

Now, it turns out that these men are unfortunately jobless, and they dig through the dumpsters (dumpster dive) in order to find things to sell/recycle and are not part of the regular automated trucks which empty the dumpsters on a regular basis.

Almost invariably, *anyone* who has ever lived *anywhere* will wonder (usually outloud) why there isn't anyone given horsedrawn carriage rides for tourists. Now, certainly, Montevideo is not NYC, but during the summer months, the city is fairly overrun with tourists. I can't help but think that a couple of horsedrawn carriages could give *really* economical rides to a few tourists around a couple of strategically located neighborhoods and *clean up*.

There is obviously an ample supply of these horses (although i have yet to have anyone give me more than a guess as to where the homeless people get them or exactly how it works).

The Uruguayos are in general "ashamed" of the situation. I think their (generally) left leaning political beliefs see it as a failing of society. Since the left leaning politicians just recently retook power, horse drawn garbage carts could be one of those things that disappears from the streets of Montevideo.

Why in the world can't anyone here think even a little bit outside the box?

For all the conformity that gets driven into the skulls of Asians, I found all parts of Asia to have people who were *much* more enterprising than Uruguay.....Even communist *Beijing* two years after the Tiananmen square uprising...

I've actually heard younger Montevideans complain about the same thing. They say as soon as one person does something and it's successful, overnight you'll have 20 more.

The theories trying to explain this strange behaviour are multi and varied.

.....I've heard theories that they are "overeducated"/institutionalized.

Now, for me, I don't care. I find the slower pace of life, which i equate to Europe in the 1950's, quite charming, and frankly don't want to live in LA jr. or "the next Shanghai". However, most of the Uruguayos (especially the young ones) are NOT happy with the economic opportunities available them in the country. The foreigner with an imagination comes here and sees things as being "wide open". Meanwhile the local with commercial intiative and drive too often leaves the country to find opportunity elsewhere.

Hopefully (maybe) the Uruguayan inferiority complex is starting to recede a bit. For the first four or five months I was here I must have heard, "tell me fuBarrio *why* did you pick *Uruguay*?" (as a place to live). The intonation of this question was generally worded so that it could be interpreted as "why (in the world) did you pick uruguay (of all places. are you, like, a crazy person or something?)".....Since none of them had ever seen this blog, there was still some question as to my sanity.

By next tourist season, I'm going to convince (fund if necessary) one of these enterprising unemployed young people to get a couple carriages offering rides to tourists around the shoreline, the old city, parque rodo, a couple of the touristy neighborhoods or other parks....not like there is any shortage of people skilled at maneuvering horsedrawn carts through city streets....

The reason I'm letting the "cat out of the bag" and willing to lose my first mover advantage by posting here, is that I'm hoping someone else gets with the program and does it before me so I can focus on more important matters -- like finding a direct importer of twinky hostess snack cakes!!!



solymarciano said...

Hi fuBarrio,

I have also spent many hours waxing on the fate of the "clasificadores" as they are called here.

However, I would argue that they are not "jobless", as you say. They are bonafide entrepreneurs who make money out of our waste. They look for paper, plastic, tin, cardboard and glass on the street and sell it. They reduce our generous contributions to landfills.

I think the real question is why we don't separate what is really trash from what is recyclable to make their work more dignified. Are we as "solidario" as we say we are?

But yes, I too have wondered why one of them doesn't pimp his or her cart and offer rides to tourists.

Take care,

Anonymous said...

Importing twinkies...yeah! Work on that! How 'bout offering rides AND selling twinkies from the unbeatable twofer!