La Brigada

La Brigada de La Basura
La Brigada de La Basura with Ross (“The Boss”) and founder Michael Hayes

In July 2011 I visited Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco Mexico for the first time and fell in love with this busy, charming tourist town on Bahia de Banderas. I went on numerous tours, from zip lining in the jungles to snorkeling near Isla Las Caletas. On a return visit in November, I decided to try a different kind of adventure: volunteering.


I found information for Que?Pasa Bar and Grill’s La Brigada de la Basura through the online newspaper Bandera News. After a few email exchanges with Que?Pasa owner and La Brigada founder Michael Hayes, I looked forward to meeting the local kids who help on Saturdays, cleaning and beautifying el Rio Cuale.

Con La Brigada
With a few of the kids from La Brigada de la Basura

In 2013, I moved to Puerto Vallarta, and volunteered with La Brigada whenever possible. I enjoyed sunny walks down the Malécon early in the morning, often stopping by the Old Town Farmer’s Market for a fresh juice from my favorite stand before heading through Colonia Emilio Zapata to Que?Pasa.

Jugo fresco en Old Town PV
Mother and son make fresh orange and carrot juice. ¡muy rico!

This wonderful video made by Esteban Uyarra gives a first-hand glimpse of La Brigada de La Basura.

I volunteered enough that the kids dubbed me Señorita Burra Dana on the day we selected our favorite animal for our name tag. I know they meant it with humor and respect; I loved it, considering my prior volunteer work.

Senorita Burra Dana
Senorita Burra Dana, con mi “novio,” cerca el Rio Cuale!

Watching the kids of La Brigada de La Basura grow, I hope they appreciate the joy of volunteering together: cleaning this beautiful city and its river, and taking pride in where they live. I have many great memories of working with them, and that to me is immeasurable, a happiness that greatly exceeds a giant black plastic bag.

– Updated Spring 2014

with Esnider, a favorite chico
With a favorite helper from La Brigada de La Basura