Featured in numerous news articles, NPR and 60 Minutes, the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura is one of how art can elevate the human spirit despite crippling poverty.
And the musicians are coming to Key Biscayne.
The orchestra hails from a slum built on a landfill near Paraguay’s capital Asunción where a group of kids for the last several years have been taught to play instruments fashioned out of refuse.
The Key Biscayne Community Foundation working with It Takes A Village – the civic group of local parents with special needs kids – persuaded the group to include Key Biscayne on its South Florida trip. The concerts will take place at Paradise Park at 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The orchestra made the trip to South Florida despite catastrophic floods that have washed away their school.
The Recycled Orchestra is coming to the island thanks mostly to It Takes A Village. A leader of the group recently appeared on the Independent’s Anti-Social podcast.
Bergonzi said as a native of Paraguay she was excited to hear that the orchestra was coming to South Florida to play at Florida International University and decided to extend an invitation for the musicians to perform on the island.
They play saxophones, cellos, violins – all made out of trash.
The orchestra evolved out of an idea from environmental educator Favio Chavez who wanted to help the children of Cateura – a place where the 2,500 families make a living combing through the trash, selling plastic or cardboard for 5 to 10 cents a pound.
“He was a teacher, a scientist who wanted to do a project for recycling,” Begonzi told the Village Council at their meeting last Tuesday. “He said, ‘I need to help these kids,’ because some of them were on drugs or they didn’t have parents.”
Most of the children of Cateura don’t go to school, are not literate, and live without electricity or plumbing. Their families can’t even afford shoes.
The Recycled Orchestra is also featured in the documentary Landfill Harmonic. “My life without music would be meaningless,” one young musician says in the film.
Begonzi said there are about 10 families from Paraguay who make Key Biscayne home. She hopes residents will open their hearts – and maybe their pocketbooks – considering the flooding endured back in Cateura. A collapse of a house located above the school resulted in damage to two classrooms used by the students.
The gap between Cateura and Key Biscayne is striking. But these worlds will collide through music this weekend. Chavez is especially looking forward to coming to the island, Bergonzi said.
“He is very excited to meet the community,” Bergonzi said. “He couldn’t believe that a community like Key Biscayne wanted him to come.”