Clasificadores: “Living Off the Trash” and Raising Hogs at the Urban Margin



Clasificadores are classifiers/sorters in Montevideo, Uruguay who make their living by gathering urban refuse, often by horse-cart, from the city's metropolitan area and/or municipal refuse centers, and selling the recyclable or reusable materials to industries for a profit. The production and organizational strategies of clasificadores show dynamic adaptations in negotiating urban and peri-urban landscapes. There exists a substantial number of clasificadores, referred to as clasificadores criadores de cerdos (CCdCs), who raise hogs in addition to their recycling efforts. CCdCs do not fit into the customary scheme of urban agriculture since they do not employ gardening, but rather harvest (aside from recyclable material for cash) organic refuse, which is fed to hogs. Additional twists to this distinctive group are that raising hogs in irregular settlements is illegal, and very little of the hog-on-the-hoof they produce is consumed by the CCdCs themselves. Out-of-town hog farmers transport the CCdCs' bootleg, trash-fed hogs to legitimate markets thereby closing the legal loop for their clandestine hog production. The development of such a highly specialized urban agricultural niche has evolved over several decades. In recent years clasificadores have turned to various forms of collective action, such as the creation of cooperatives and more recently a labor union, to contest municipal politics, such as the regularization of irregular settlements, and to resist encroaching “new-poor” (displaced urban working-class families) communities in the politically charged environment of the urban margin. These findings contribute to a larger comparative study of agricultural and livestock production strategies of two other populations at the urban margin, “new-poor” community gardeners and Uruguay's first organic growers association, to better understand the effects of large-scale political and economic forces on livelihoods at the urban margin looking particularly at the evolution of production strategies since Uruguay's economic crisis in 2002.