The Riachuelo river is not just an eighty kilometer river. It is also a symbol of Buenos Aires. It passes through the city historically as well as geographically. It is core and edge at the same time. All the mythology of our classic urban identity has the Riachuelo as an obligated reference: the mist, the ship that arrived once with loads of immigrants and that is now nibbled by the rust at the bottom of the river. The harbor as a place where y can you start over, a scene to remember the past and to compose some tango pieces. La Boca («The mouth», the neighborhood by the Riachuelo) received this name since it is the mouth of the river, the location through which the river talks. Or spits. Actually, it used to spit: now things pass through the river-bed as if it were a dead man’s throat. The Riachuelo has 0% of oxygen on most part of its course. It has become a «drowned river», mainly due to the over 4100 industries that throw their toxic wastes into it.
Alfredo Clavijo lives on the 11th floor in a flat, overlooking the petrochemical base on the South Dock. From here he can see the industry and suffers from toxic waste that they spew out into the river.
Silos by the Riachuelo river next to a residential building in Avellaneda in the suburbs of Buenos Aires.
Toxic waste contaminates water and air and affects the health of the closest inhabitants. Luz, an 11-year old girl, suffers from severe rashes on her arms and legs.
An inhabitant of Maciel island has regular check-ups during her pregnancy while many women from the surrounding areas suffer miscarriages.
A sign at the mouth of the Riachuelo river : «Danger. Do not probe. High tension cables 200m away. 132,000 volts»
Marta, an inhabitant of Maciel island. She has lead in her blood due to contact with polluted water from the Riachuelo river.
Maciel Island medical centre run by Dr Luis Ferrero. Cases of skin rashes, breathing problems and blood issues are common as inhabitants are in contact with polluted water. The main problem is the lack of a main sewer system in the region.
There is a high concentration of chrome on the water since the river receives 68 kilos of that metal per day.
Daily life in a conventillo (a typical building from the first decades of the 20th century) on Maciel Island. Many of the local adults and children have lead in their blood in enough quantities to affect the nervous system and lower IQ.... (+)
Toluene is one of the most contaminating elements. It is detected on air and the main emissions come from the chemical products factories. Their effects are carcinogenic, nervous system depressors and cause of death. Toluene is also used as a powerful deadly drug.
Fausto works on the boats that transport sand over the Riachuelo river. «After all these years I have never seen anybody do anything. Things don’t change because of the presence of factories nearby. There are many interests, they threw all their wastes there.... (+)
The «red ant» is a suburban anti-hero. He works with tourists who come to visit the Riachuelo river. The character was created to raise awareness about living in a better place. One of his mottos is «many ants can work better to improve the environment».
Video Oxígeno Cero
Text: Cooperativa SUB
Direction: Cooperativa SUB
Edition: Cooperativa SUB, Tristán Tàpies