Scavenger is Pope’s special Vatican guest



Handout picture released by Sergio Sanchez showing Pope Francis greeting Argentine “cartonero” (a person who collects cardboard and other recyclable items to sell them) Sergio Sanchez at the Vatican, on March 19, 2013. Pope Francis, wearing the mantle of a humble advocate for the poor while defending Catholic orthodoxy, rose from modest beginnings to become the first Latin American leader of the 1.2 billion-strong Church. AFP PHOTO

BUENOS AIRES—Sergio Sanchez stood behind Pope Francis at his Vatican inauguration ceremony, wide-eyed amid all the pomp, glitter and VIPs of a slice of history.

That was Tuesday, but on Friday he was back at his job in Buenos Aires, hunting for anything useful in the city’s garbage.

Sanchez is a leader in one of Argentina’s lowliest professions—head of a 3,000-member garbage scavenger cooperative in the capital.

But he was friends with Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, before Bergoglio became leader of the world’s Catholics.

“He was always with us at Mass preaching against slave labor, against sexual exploitation, and in favor of the poor,” the

49-year-old told Agence France-Presse.

Sanchez was invited to join the Argentine delegation to the Pope’s inauguration. Another guest was schoolteacher Jose del Corral.

Like family

“He knows me well. That’s why I was chosen to go to the Vatican,” Sanchez told AFP. “But any of us could have gone. He kissed Jose and me and hugged us, and told us, ‘Keep up the fight!’”    Both men had a place of honor during the inauguration.

“We walked behind him and entered a large hall. There were the presidents, the kings, but we were there … like his family,” Sanchez beamed.

Rewind to 2001: Argentina’s economy was in a tailspin.

The government drastically cut spending to meet Internationl Monetary Fund and World Bank conditions on a bailout aid, which triggered widespread strikes and protests.

There was a run on the banks, forcing the government to freeze bank accounts and allow only small withdrawals.

By the end of the year Buenos Aires was a battle zone, with protesters clashing with police and dozens of roadblocks set up by angry mobs protesting government policies.

Amid mass protests, the president fled the presidential palace in a helicopter days before Christmas.

Unemployment soared, poverty rose to a shocking 57 percent, and Argentina is still recovering.

‘Cardboard specialists’

At the time Sanchez was working as a truck driver, but when the owner of his truck company went bankrupt, he was forced to find a new line of work.

“I became a cardboard scavenger with my wife and my children,” he said.

Sanchez prefers to describe his line of business as “recycling.” People in his profession are generically known as “cartoneros,” a term that could be generously translated as “cardboard specialists.”    “I don’t know how to write well and I’ve only completed elementary school. But I do know how to think,” Sanchez said.

To this day groups of “cartoneros” scour the streets of Buenos Aires sifting through the city’s waste in the dark of night.

They climb into garbage dumpsters, search the city’s trash cans and sift through the bags of household refuse searching for wood, metal, plastic, paper and cardboard—anything that can be sold to recyclers.

Personification of misery

The scavengers, sometimes equipped with carts pulled by horses, sometimes tear open the garbage containers and leave a big mess—to the dismay of the city’s middle-class residents.

They personify the misery to which much of Argentina, once a proud and wealthy exporter of beef and wheat, has fallen.

In the early days of the crisis, the scavengers worked independently, but over the years they organized into cooperatives. Today they work together to separate the recyclables and have regular buyers.

They also hold protest marches demanding honest prices from their buyers.

Sanchez is getting tired with his 15 minutes of fame and the media attention it has garnered. After a quick meal, he is back to work, heading out to help manage his cooperative members in another night of dumpster diving.

With that day in the Vatican now just a memory, he quotes a song from the popular Spanish folk singer Joan Manuel Serrat that says the poor will remain poor, the rich will stay rich, and priests will go back to saying Mass.


But Sanchez, interviewed after some 15 hours of work sifting through garbage looking for something of value, says he will not forget this new Pontiff.

“Once, Bergoglio said in Mass that they are killing our brothers and sisters who are reduced to slavery, in clandestine sweatshops, in prostitution rings, the kids who beg,” Sanchez said.

“We’re very happy with our new cartonero Pope.”

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  • Pepe Alas

    ✔ ✔ ✔

  • Noel

    Enough is enough. The new Pope should stop all his dramatic displays of being close to the poor. We admire him for that. Since the Pope is the successor of Peter and that priests claim to represent Christ, let’s hope the Pope doesn’t allow himself to be crucified on the Cross then dies…then rise again on the third day.

    • MOTO


    • litobetita

      Bakit naman kailangan nya stop? Eh kung yun talaga ang nakasanayan nya eh? Wag mo na lang sya pakialaman, pwede? Wala naman masamang effect sa iyo eh…meron ba? Kung anu-ano na lang pumapasok sa utak nyo kaya kahit ano na lang masabi. Bakit kasi punung-puno ng hatred yang puso nyo against our religion. just forget about us and live in peace!!!!

    • mxsclxmxn

      This guy wants it the other way around. He don’t like it doing with the poor. Perhaps this guy wants a headline the goes: The Pope with the RICH and FAMOUS! How is that!

      Baliktad talaga utak mo!

      • Noel

        Tell that to the Filipino Bishops.

  • Bisdak_kaayo

    Ito ang sabi ng Biblia

    Matthew 6:5-7
    New International Version (NIV)

    5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

    Who is the most guilty of the religious groups in violating this commandment?

    Sa halip magtago at magsara ng kwarto tuwing magdarasal, nagpoprocession pa at gumagamit pa ng TROMPA sa kanilang pagsisiwalat sa kanilang pagdarasal sa madlang people.

    Which group is most guilty? Alam niyo na. While other religious groups are guilty as well, hindi po maikakaila kung anong grupo ang pinaka guilty sa lahat. The sins of other groups does not ERASE the sins of the Catholic Church. Sila daw ang na-una sa lahat na dominasyon ng Kristianismo. Naging good example nga ba sila?

    • farmerpo

      Shoot na shoot. It is lenten week na naman and the trompas will be wailing 24/7 for the next 7 days. And it is aggressively encouraged by the catholic church. Good social conduct alone should deter this practice but noo… In the US this is called noise pollution and neighbor aggravation. Police will stop it.

      • Crazy_horse101010

        i agree after i got woke up yesterday at 5 oclock by a bunch of drums beating. this dont happen other counties and what does it prove

      • litobetita

        Hindi totoo ang sinasabi mo na di ito nangyayari sa ibang bansa. Sa lahat ng catholic countries especially sa South America ay may ganito din…..

      • litobetita

        Sa US yun….nasa Pilipinas ka. Bakit kailangan natin gumaya sa attitude ng mga amerikano. Ang catholic religion at ang practice nito ay naging part na ng culture natin for hundreds of years….di natin pwede talikuran or else we will be a nation without own culture. Kaya nga di sila inaaresto ng pulis eh, walang batas na nagbabawal dun. Sa lahat ng catholic “latin” countries especially or sa South America ay ginagawa ang ganitong practice baka sa US lang bawal?

    • dann0409

      Duh?? Ganun rin ang iba, lalo na may yung mga nag prayer rally, pakitang tao, kung makagamit ng verse ng Bibliya parang hipokrito rin. they will use it to attack a religion, pero hugas kamay agad!! hahaha!! nagdarasal tapos kung makatsismis… Envy and pride/

    • Rizzo Rios

      Kapatid, kapag sinabi nating guilty sila ng ganito’t ganon tayo rin ay guilty ng paninirang puri. Masasabi ba nating wala tayong kasalanan? Itong lenten season ang pinakamagandang panahon para humingi ng kapatawaran para sa ating mga kasalanan at sa mga kasalanan ng iba.

    • Handiong

      Mga false prophets kayo. Mga wolves in sheep’s clothing kayo. Nasa Bibliya yan. The Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” – Matthew 16:18. The Catholic Church has been here for more than 2,000 years now, and it ain’t going away. “And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.” – Matthew 28:20.

    • JosengSisiw1

      Everydody is guilty. That’s why you dont need religion to be a good person. You just follow the universal rules that in every action you do there will be a reaction for it. You do good things you earn good things, period. Believing in God doesnt mean you need to join a religious group and try to prove to evrbody that the one you had is the only perfect one that can save you from hell.

  • Benigno the Turd

    Never underestimate the simple power of highlighting a social problem.

  • OleSapra aka ARGUS


    ANA: “O, pupusta ako. Meron na namang sasagpang na pulpolitikong pinoy at kokopya sa ideya ni Pope Francis hinggil sa scavenger special guest sa Vatican.”

    LISA: “Ay nakana mo ‘ga. Kapag ang sorties ng kandidato eh sa squatter’s area, meron na itong nakahandang alkohol. ‘Lamoba ‘yon?”

    CION: “Aba’y huwag mong isipin na naghuhugas din ng alkohol si Pope Francis makalipas siyang makipag-kamay sa mga scavenger, noh?”

  • disqus_csV255YYsX



    SUGGESTED new international movie title: THE POPE and PAUPER. :)

    Philippine version: THE POPE and the POPER. :)

  • kismaytami

    I’m starting to doubt the gimmicks of this new pope. So much show and media hype regarding his being pro-poor, modest lifestyle, bus riding and so on.

    • litobetita

      sinabi mo na ngang gimmick eh nag doubt ka pa? Eh ayun naman sa mga personal na nakakakikilala sa kanya eh ganyan talaga ang style nya eversince. So sino paniniwalaan mo, yung sinabi ng nakakakilala sa kanya o yung haka-haka mo na gimmick lang yan? Talaga nga naman…..

  • The Lighthouse

    This reminds me of Mang Pandoy of FVR and the Bangkang Papel boys of GMA. The same style.

    • pammisymonds

      I’m making $86 an hour working from home. I was shocked when my neighbour told me she was averaging $95 but I see how it works now. I feel so much freedom now that I’m my own boss. This is what I do, — Buzz80.ℂOℳ

      • Olibo

        Hey you’re in the wrong website.

  • kokak

    Siguro kung ipapamahagi ng pope ang kahit kalahati lang – kahit kalahati lang – ng pera ng mga katoliko na napupunta sa Roma, madaming cartonero ang maiaahon sa kahirapan.

    Buti pa ang simbahan (lahat ng simbahan hindi lang katoliko) hindi nao-audit ng SGV ang pondo, di rin nagbabayad ng tax. Dami na siguro ng pondo nun. Samantalang yung 200 pesos na hindi mai-account ng homeowner assoc sa amin, ang laking kahihiyan na ang inabot ni chairman.

    • yonoh

      sira ka talaga kokak naiingit ka naman sa pera ng simbahan alam mo ba na yan ay tulong ng mga tao sa simbahan………..baket sila nagbibigay kasi pagikaw ay makadyos at nanghingi ka sa kanya sigurado yan bibiyayaan ka…………..kaya huwag kang mainggit kasi ang pera ng simbahan ay galing sa dyos……………

  • igmat

    The Pope told Argentina to stay home and not go to Rome and instead use the money to give to the poor. But obviously, they couldn’t care less of going to Rome to feel proud of their own Fr Jorge become Pope. Same thing I remember barrio folks save or even loan money to go to baguio to witness the military graduation of their first PMA grad in the history. they were not told to go but chose to instead. Would we rather the graduate not approach his kababayan who came? The difference in this story is that Pope knew them all(at least what they told the press) and rightfully received them.

  • Olibo

    Humility is one of Jesus’ attributes. But in this situation it seems to be a publicity stunt.
    Babylon the mother of harlots. Viva Il Papa!

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