Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados Cateura
Cateura ~ Paraguay
Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados Cateura (2006, Cateura) is a youth orchestra that is transforming lives. It is unique in its ingenious use of humble local resources and a beacon of pride and hope for the local community. Six kilometres west of Asunción, Cateura is built on top of a landfill where more than 1.5 tonnes of solid wastes are dumped every day. Most families here, including children, work as garbage recyclers to earn a meagre living. In this difficult context, Favio Chávez, a former music teacher working as an environmental engineer, started giving music lessons to the children.
At first the budding musicians played on Chávez’s own instruments but as the number of students increased there was need for more instruments but no funds to buy them. Chávez, with the help and the genius of community members, searched and found waste materials that they could fashion into all the different musical instruments: bottle caps as keys for a saxophone; galvanized pipes for flutes; old cans for sound boxes. Today the 30 teenagers who make up the Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados Cateura proudly play Mozart, Latin American or Beatles music on their fine cellos, clarinets, trombones – every instrument that a quality orchestra has.
The orchestra gives an average of one performance a week in Paraguay, as well as playing in regional concerts and international festivals. More than 120 children now take part in free music classes and aspire to join the orchestra, and many community members are involved in its activities.
Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados Cateura is honoured for bringing music and joy to many people; for their innovative and communal collaboration in using the resources at hand to create possibilities and transcend their difficult circumstances; for engendering self-esteem, community pride and social cohesion through musical expression; and for showing that culture is a human necessity and that material poverty need not be an obstacle to a life rich in culture.