Human Interest

‘Invisible’ chatarreros scrapping for survival in Barcelona

By May Ponzo

Barcelona, Spain, Nov 11 (EFE).- It is just after 9am and Kalamu Fal, Abdoulaay Lo and Abdou Biram are having a quick coffee around the corner from Barcelona’s emblematic Arc de Triomphe before a long day ahead of scrapping metal as a means of survival.

Every morning, the three friends meet in the same spot where they briefly ‘park’ their shopping carts, which are essential to their livelihoods, to fuel up before kicking off their long day ahead.

“He is a robot, he has so much energy he can walk up hills for hours,” Kalamu and Abdoulaay say, laughing and pointing at their friend Abdou.

The Senegalese men are referring to their friend’s endurance as a ‘chatarrero,’ a slang term for scrap-metal collectors or ragpickers.

The sound and sight of migrant men pushing shopping carts filled with scrap-metal down the streets of Barcelona has become ordinary in the coastal Spanish city, but for the chatarreros, every day is a gamble.

Yesterday, Abdou walked 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) searching for scrap but didn’t earn a single cent. Kalamu also walked 12 kilometers, and made 15 euros ($17.4) while Adboulaay earned 13.

“There are good days and bad days,” they say, shrugging their shoulders.

At the end of a day’s work, their shopping carts carry up to 240 kilograms (530 pounds) of waste, but sometimes that can be worth less than 10 euros.

The price of metal varies from 16 to 20 cents per kilo.

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