Guano Collectors

“The worst enemy is not the smell, heat or exhaustion … [it] is dust sticking on the eyebrows, covering our noses and cheeks and turning our face into a rigid mask.”Domingo León
Guano Collector

February 22, 2014 - Translated by from an original article by El Rincon del Huevo Podrido

“The worst enemy is not the smell, heat or exhaustion.” As Domingo León explained to us, “the worst enemy is dust sticking on the eyebrows, covering our noses and cheeks and turning our face into a rigid mask.”

The rising cost of synthetic fertilizers has made guano sexy again. Some workers collect the dung of seabirds in the North Guañape Island, off the coast of Peru. The global boom in commodities has come to this: before guano, bird dung was the center of an imperialist confrontation at sea in the nineteenth century, and is once again in strong demand.

“We are excavating some of the last remaining guano in Peru...”Victor Ropón
Foreman - Ancash province

Rising prices of synthetic fertilizers and organic foods are shifting attention to guano, an organic fertilizer once found in abundance in this and other 20 islands off the coast Peru, where an exceptionally dry climate preserves the droppings of seabirds like guanay cormorant and the Peruvian booby.

On the same islands where thousands of convicts, army deserters and Chinese servants died collecting guano a century and a half ago, teams of Quechua laborers from the mountains now scrape to remove manure from the hard ground and get it into boats that transport it to the continent. "We are excavating some of the last remaining guano in Peru" , explains Victor Ropón, 66, foreman of the province of Ancash, whose leathery skin reflects his years working on the guano islands, since 17 years old.

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