City of Cast-Offs

Tire Retaining Wall In Tijuana, photo by William Hillyard

Rubber Retaining Wall in Tijuana’s Swanky Chapultepec Neighborhood.--photo by William Hillyard

Tijuana is made of tires.  Car tires.  It is constructed of them: they form the walls of houses, shore up embankments, stabilize slopes, create retaining walls, staircases, curbs, fences, planters.  Tijuana is awash in tires, buried under them. The tires all came from California originally; we export more than two million old tires to Mexico every year as part of a recycling program overseen by the state. Tire recycling means nothing more than relocating, it seems, exporting our problem to the other side of the international fence.

This is a short  piece I wrote to accompany a photo essay by  World Press Photo award-winning photographer Guillermo Arias.   It appeared in  the Earth Island Journal.  Our assignment was to explore recycling: how does it fare as our first response to the American culture of consumption?

“Jorge Lopez works shirtless among a mountain of wooden pallets along the cluttered banks of Tijuana’s swampy Arroyo Alamar. He stacks the best pallets to one side and busts others into boards, piling them alongside the broken scraps gathered as firewood. Lopez makes his living selling the pallets, the boards, and the firewood to the squatters who live on the opposite bank of the arroyo. A whole pallet goes for two pesos — about 15 cents.”

Read the entire story: City of Cast-Offs

William Hillyard


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