Quotidian Infrastructures on Collection and Distribution

Garbage Collection. Photo: A+A

Throughout the days, you will hear a number of rhythmic chimes and whistles, pre-recorded looping public announcements via megaphone, and yells doppler-ing in-and-out of earshot. Those calls are roaming services: waste collection, big-scale recycling, tamales, knife-sharpening, gas, water, and more -and they are essential, especially those for gas, water, and waste.

I’ve noticed most homes in the Narvarte district, Post-Rural’s base, get gas supplied on a single-tank basis via gas delivery vehicles. Upon our arrival, a friend tipped that if our gas runs out, the delivery service usually drive around early morning and yell “GAS!”, and if we should need gas, we yell “GAS!” right back. This tip also came with a caution: only buy the blue tanks. If not, you will get in trouble with these guys.

Gas delivery truck in Roma. Photo: Ted McGrath via Flickr

I was not sure if this was a playful joke or not, but apparently these services circulate through mafia-like practice. With more local feedback, it seems to be widely-known that the invisible guts of México City (and other parts of México) run on these precarious markets. When we visited Roma Verde, for instance, a member of the recycling team also mentioned a threatening experience she had while trying to obtain a second-hand plastic-grinding machine near Pachuca in Hidalgo. It is a means for many to make money – collecting, sorting, selling – by however means necessary, perhaps.

As temporary tenants, we inevitably became participants of this system. Garbage collection day came by the jingle of a bell, where a waste-collection member signaled a several-block radius about the truck’s arrival. With our garbage, self-separated, joined a processional of like-situated people to a collection truck parked a block away. Some with bags, some with garbage cans – everyone handed their waste to the men at the truck’s back-end, where each item was placed onto the overfilling pit.

Andrea carries garbage. Photo: A+A
Anonymous folks carry garbage. Photo: A+A

I have never seen -or thought- people assemble over garbage. Where the service is as invisible as possible in the States, here is akin to a public ritual. Waste collection as community engagement, through mafia-markets? If the city requires this standard of garbage-pickup, perhaps it can build upon itself for Post-Rural. Should we follow the life of garbage in México City?

My yesterdays were filled with headache pain, so I have only account for these quotidian banalities while staying home. I took out the garbage, watched the water-jug collection vehicle, saw an ice-cream truck with a mega-phone on top, encountered brownish water in a public park’s fountain, and came across construction on a ruptured pipe. Humanity’s basic infrastructures are so transparent here; it brings into perspective how crucial these factors are and brings to light the organizational efforts of semi-improvised plug-in veins for the city (research needed: is it self-sustained, or federally sponsored? What are its architectural necessities? Can I argue these vehicles as architecture?).

Today, we are trying to get to Xochimilco.

Water distribution truck. Photo: A+A
Brownish tint in public fountain’s water. Photo: A+A
Ruptured pipe in Narvarte. Photo: A+A
Our water-jug, for drinking. Photo: A+A

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