Litter Bugs, Litter Bags

While I love my Ajijic life, and I strive to learn about and accept the cultural differences around me, one habit my Mexican neighbors have that I can’t understand or tolerate is their careless littering. There are programs here to maintain a “Limpia Ajijic,” a Clean Ajijic, but the reminder signs on posts and poles for the most part go ignored.  This is not the case, from what I’ve seen, in Mexico’s larger cities. But here at Lakeside, litter collects everywhere like metal shavings to a magnet.

The concept of respecting our planet, the beauty of this region, or the land generations before us left in our care is foreign here. While trash cans are placed throughout the various small communities and larger towns along the north shore of Lake Chapala and they are used, far more garbage is tossed carefree from cars or dropped irresponsibly from pedestrian hands. A consciousness of the “Don’t Litter” mantra, we in the US learned as kids, simply does not exist here. It is not part of the culture or mind-set.

Bruce, my travel mate, who lives about five miles away in San Juan Cosalá, tells how the town’s elementary school children were gathered one Saturday to go on litter patrol and clean up the waterfront and malecón. They were promised treats, cookies or candy, and a drink, when they finished and turned in their bags. They all filled their litter bags nicely, turned them in, took their edible rewards, and promptly tossed the wrappings or containers on the ground. No lesson was learned.

I am a walker, doing most errands on foot, and am therefore very aware of the amount of garbage on the ground here. I just can’t ignore this, I thought one day. As a result, I selected three small areas near my home and pick up non-biodegradable litter every week or two. I fill a Hefty Bag on each trip.

The most common items I pick up are glass and plastic pop bottles, to-go coffee cups, potato chip and other snack bags, plastic bags of various sizes, cellophane wrapped cigarette packs, and plastic utensils like forks, spoons, and straws.

But it is the unusual items I find along the main road running through Ajijic that puzzle me. I have found Jimmy Hoffa’s remains, the Lindbergh baby, a copy of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a check written in Russian to Donald J. Trump for 178,000,000 rubles, Frida Kahlo’s eyebrow tweezers, an aimlessly wandering actress Anne Heche, a CD of Eminem rapping “The Hallelujah Chorus,” a rusty Benito Juarez campaign button that says, in Spanish, “Make Mexico Great Again,” a $3 bill, the Edmund Fitzgerald, the unremarkable careers of most of the winners of American Idol and The Voice and America’s Next Top Model, and a partridge in a pear tree.

I didn’t know what to do with these unusual items. If I had picked them up, I thought, how would I have gotten rid of this odd collection?  Ebay? Craig’s List? A yard sale? Therefore, I decided to leave them for a group of elementary school children on a Saturday Litter Patrol to pick up. I figured they would know what to do with them.

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