Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sergio, the Studious Scavenger

I met Sergio soon after I moved to Bogotá about seven years ago. He stood out amongst La Candelaria's numerous and often colorful street people because of his learning - we often saw him reading the books, magazines and newspapers he'd scavenged from the trash. He could discuss Colombian politics and world events. 
"People think that because you're on the street that you jut read the comics," he says, "but I read the world section, politics, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal inserts..."
Sergio, who is 50, told me that he's lived by scavenging for about the last ten years. But before that he'd studied geography in a university for 14 months and then worked in the courts. But he also suffered a hit-and-run car accident which put him in the hospital for two years and has never healed completely. He still needs medicines to treat an open sore on his ankle.  
"4,000 pesos for medicine translates into two hours of scavenging," he says. 
He also has to make 6,000 pesos to pay for the room he rents. Of course, Sergio also begs a bit as well. 
Why does Sergio still scavenge instead of finding a 'real' job?
He said it's in order to defend the rights of scavengers in general, who he says have been driven from their homes by the powerful. 
"It's like tied up burro trying to fight against a tiger," says Sergio.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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