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Rag-and-bone: the resale of items trashed in the United States and shipped to Haiti says a lot about history, politics, and drugs

For many Americans, our relationship with stuff ends when we take it to the curb on trash day. But for millions of items—everything from coat hangers to mattresses—this is the beginning of a second life, one that flows out the Miami River and on to Haiti. In the June issue of Harper’s Magazine, Rowan Moore Gerety explores how this process relies on cheap labor rather than cheap materials, the fine margins of which many Haitians rely on to survive. “Refugees from the northwest have long made up a disproportionate share of the ‘boat people,’” he writes. “Today, it remains Haiti’s poorest and most isolated region, and almost every family that can afford it has sent someone to South Florida in search of a living. For those who stay, fortunes rise and fall with the tide.”

In this week’s episode, Moore Gerety talks with web editor Violet Lucca about how cocaine undergirds the industry, why a once agriculturally rich nation remains so poor, and how this story epitomizes the United States’ approach to territorial control in the Caribbean.

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