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.
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.
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.
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