I’m sitting at a table at the coffee & smoothie shop, The Anchor, enjoying the warm Sayulita afternoon and eating mangoes with Ramses Meneses. Ramses is one of the head coordinators of the new ‘Yo Amo Sayulita Limpio’ project. His attitude towards life and positive nature is highly contagious and it’s clear this man is on a mission: To make the world (and Sayulita) more clean and beautiful than he found it.
Where are you from? Are you originally from Sayulita?
I tell people that I come from the planet Earth. But, I was born in Juarez, Chihuahua. I came to Sayulita in February, 2017.
What inspired you to start working with a group of people to help clean Sayulita?
I never thought when I came to Sayulita I’d be helping the town and cleaning the streets. This was an opportunity that found me and I thought it was important to help clean the community where I live and to help the planet. When I received this opportunity, it excited me to make a difference. I’ve learned so much by doing this job. This opportunity has inspired me to start moving myself to create a positive impact, and I get to share the joys of making Sayulita a better place with locals and tourists.
What does a typical day of cleaning look like for you?
I wake up in the morning typically around 6am in Patzcuaro. I hitchhike or walk into town around 7am. I see my colleagues and we start cleaning. (Currently, we only clean the downtown area). Every morning there is always a mess from the stray dogs and garbage from the night before. I like the quiet, relaxed atmosphere of Sayulita in the morning. In the afternoon, I delegate jobs to other workers for their daily clean up duties. I try to put everyone in a different spot so the job does not get monotonous. In the evening, I clean the streets for about three hours and walk around the town and check to make sure my friends are doing their duties correctly. My work day usually ends around 7pm - just in time to watch the sunset on the beach. I’m glad to have time to go into the ocean and relax and talk to the people on the beach.
Where are you stationed to clean up trash in Sayulita? Are you always in the same location?
We all work as a collective to clean different streets in the downtown area each day. We try to be as systematic as possible and at the same time change up our cleaning areas. It’s important to have the opportunity for people to see us throughout the week cleaning different parts of the downtown area. Maybe during one week I might be in the same location twice, but I like to explore. We are all around town at different points of the day and week.
When can people see your team working? Do you have specific days and hours for cleaning?
I work seven days a week from 7am-7pm with a break in between. There are other workers who work six days a week with a 6-hour shift, totaling 36 hours a week. This is their full time job and everyone is happy for their employment and keeping Sayulita beautiful.
What kind of response have you received from locals and tourists?
We have received a very positive response. I feel our job is to help Sayulita. The majority of businesses we talk to are hopeful and excited to see us working for the town. Sometimes while I’m working, I’ve received fresh water or bread. I see people in town that are super appreciative, and their intentions show that they’re grateful and that motivates us even more to continue doing this work. That’s why we don’t have plans to quit.
Is there a common issue or thread that you see on a daily basis while cleaning?
People in town need to be informed about the issues. I don’t think many local residents (nationals and expats included) have the correct mindset in being fully informed. People don’t ask as many questions; there is not a “cleaning culture” out here. I sometimes see people assume the “issue” is being fixed by local organizations or by the few of us employed as push-cart workers. At that point people think the issue is fixed and it does not effect them. I would like to see a larger conscious effort from everyone in town to be pro-active. I hope the Youth can help break the stereotypes of cleaning: cleaning is a privilege and we should be proud to clean up our town and environment. Cleaning does not mean you’re poor, or have little options in life. When you are proactive and help your community, you can feel like the richest person in the world.
How can locals and visitors make your job easier?
I would encourage locals and tourists to stop using plastic. Plastic bags are not necessary when you can use a recyclable bag or a canvas bag. I would love to see all restaurants and cafes eliminate popotes (straws). Mexico has access to bio-degradable materials for to-go items and I just don’t know why so many places don’t see how investing in a little more money would make the town better. Would it make our job easier? Potentially. Ultimately it will make a huge positive impact for Sayulita and the world.
What are future plans for this project?
We want to grow this project and clean more areas than just downtown, and find the right people to expand our team. We have received some funding here and there that helps keep this a sustainable project, but our vision is to find larger local companies and organizations to consistently help fund this project. We want this to be a community effort. We would like stable financial help by the end of 2018 from several local shops and companies.
Is tipping appropriate?
We don’t ask for tips, but we definitely appreciate tips. We have a salary and we are paid every two weeks. We live a humble life and the money we receive helps us out, but our main drive is to clean the town and make Sayulita a better place to live and visit. We always invite people to clean with us!
Is there anything you’d like to share?
I’d like to share some information. This is my job and I’m passionate about this. The industry of plastic began in/ around the 1950’s. If you calculate the amount of plastic we’ve used in the last 10 years, you will find we’ve used more plastic than we have in the last century. It’s so clear to me that this is a habit we need to eliminate. I suggest that everyone do their own research and ask questions about the environment. So much plastic ends up in landfills and into the ocean. I encourage everyone who visits and lives in Sayulita to do the best they can to inform themselves and make Sayulita clean and beautiful. Gracias!
To help contribute to this growing project, don’t hesitate to pass by Pachamama and ask in what way you can be of assistance or service.