Since its closing in 2008, the former Tijuana City Dump has acted as home to over two thousand individuals living atop mountains composed of the city’s refuse. Now called The Canyon, the area exists without running water, plumbing, or formal electricity and is by many accounts a contemporary slum situated on the outskirts of a major border-region town. This study explores what it takes to access basic amenities in the Canyon such as education, employment, food, and water. Using the ethnographic research methods of interviews and participant observation, and the works of theorists associated with reflexive and advocacy anthropology, I look at what individuals and non-profits in the region are doing to aid residents in accessing everyday necessities. I identify five themes from the interviews and discuss each in relation to relevant literature on anthropological research in similar dump based economies. I created a body of artwork that displays the stories I was told by participants, and my own experiences living and working in the Canyon. The artwork additionally reflects the themes identified through ethnographic research and analysis. Acting in conjunction with theories of advocacy anthropology, copies of the artwork will be sold to raise funds for the community of individuals that contributed to the research, and to set up a scholarship fund for children living in the Canyon.


Frese, Pamela

Second Advisor

Kempthorn, Amber


Art and Art History; Sociology and Anthropology


Art Practice | Latin American Languages and Societies


ethnographic, mexico, landfill, art, recyclers, catadores, education

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2015 Morgan E. Hughes