Colom­bian trash col­lec­tor res­cues books for chil­dren

The China Post - - ARTS -

A sec­ond-grade ed­u­ca­tion has not stopped garbage col­lec­tor Jose Gu­tier­rez from bring­ing the gift of read­ing to thou­sands of Colom­bian chil­dren.

Gu­tier­rez started res­cu­ing books from the trash al­most 20 years ago, when he was driv­ing a garbage truck at night through the cap­i­tal’s wealth­ier neigh­bor­hoods. The dis­carded read­ing ma­te­rial slowly piled up, and now the ground floor of his small house is a makeshift com­mu­nity li­brary stacked from floor to ceil­ing with some 20,000 books, rang­ing from chem­istry text­books to chil­dren’s clas­sics.

He says books are lux­u­ries for boys and girls in low-in­come neigh­bor­hoods such as his, with new read­ing ma­te­rial at book­stores too ex­pen­sive. There are 19 public li­braries in Bo­gota, a city of 8.5 mil­lion, but tend to be lo­cated far away from poorer ar­eas.

“This should be in all neigh­bor­hoods, on each cor­ner of ev­ery neigh­bor­hood, in all the towns, in all de­part­ments, and all the ru­ral ar­eas,” says Gu­tier­rez. “Books are our sal­va­tion and that is what Colom­bia needs.”

The 53-year-old Gu­tier­rez has a love of read­ing he at­tributes to his mother, who al­ways read to him even though she was too poor to keep him in school.

“She used to read me sto­ries ev­ery night,” said Gu­tier­rez, who has trav­eled to book fairs in Mexico and Chile to share his ex­pe­ri­ence of start­ing a li­brary with dis­carded read­ing ma­te­rial. “To me, books are the great­est in­ven­tion and the best thing that can hap­pen to a hu­man be­ing.”

While Gu­tier­rez still sifts through the rub­bish for ad­di­tions to his li­brary, his fame as Colom­bia’s “Lord of the Books” has also brought him thou­sands of do­nated tomes that he’s sent to other li­braries around the coun­try be­cause he doesn’t have room for them all.

Gu­tier­rez is an avid read of works by au­thors such as Leo Tol­stoy, Vic­tor Hugo and Mario Var­gas Llosa. His fa­vorite books in­clude “One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude” and “The Gen­eral in his Labyrinth” by Colom­bia’s No­bel Prize- win­ning nov­el­ist Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez.

He says he doesn’t re­ject tech­nol­ogy that al­lows books to be read dig­i­tally, but says he prefers to read the printed word on pa­per.

“There’s noth­ing more beau­ti­ful than hav­ing a book in your pocket, in your bag or in­side your car,” he says.

AP

Jose Al­berto Gu­tier­rez, left, talks to chil­dren vis­it­ing his li­brary at his home in Bo­gota, Colom­bia, Wed­nes­day, Aug. 19. The read­ing ma­te­rial slowly piles up, and now the ground floor of his small house is a makeshift com­mu­nity li­brary stacked from floor to ceil­ing with some 20,000 books, rang­ing from chem­istry text­books to chil­dren’s clas­sics.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.