Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The darkside of buses in Chapinlandia

This is part 2 of my experiences in Guatemalan public transportation. (read part 1)

The buses, despite the brightly colored exteriors and the steady pulse of reggaeton playing from within, are not always so cheerful and a perfect example of crime and violence in Guatemala City.

A few weeks ago, we were out running an errand (buying a new shower head so the poor gringa could have a hot shower) and we got a ride back home with el suegro. As we got closer to the house, traffic started to back up big time. While sitting in the stop and go traffic, el suegro leaned out the window to ask the opposite traffic what had happened. There was an "accident" involving a bus. "Accident" -- meaning the bus was robbed. What bus number? Number 75. Ours. The bus route we take almost everyday.

The next day on the front page of the paper was a gruesome photo of the bus driver and his assistant (the guy who collects the money when it's super busy) shot dead on the floor of the bus. Apparently, some guys had demanded money from the driver - and he had refused. The worst part about this experience for me (aside from the fact that this was MY bus route) was that I recognized the face of the driver. I'd ridden on his bus many times. I knew a US flag hung from the ceiling of the bus and that the assistant was a persistent flirt with all the young ladies. The driver was 21, and the assistant was 16.

This is most definitely NOT an isolated incident here in Guatemala. Bus driver deaths happen frequently (which makes me wonder WHY anyone would want to be a bus driver). Most people here are numb to this fact. They are constantly afraid of what might happen while riding a bus, but they also think of it as a fact of life. Thieves and gang members rob buses, people get killed, items are stolen, people are hurt. Welcome to life. End of story. I can't get used to this way of thinking ... but I guess it's easy to think this way when this has been the reality for your whole life.

Count your blessings, folks. Things could be worse. And that statement definitely applies to my situation too.

(you'll be happy to know that the shooters involved in the bus incident were caught shortly after the shooting. They ran, but the po-po have cars - imagine that!)

((to friends and family -- I'm not writing this to scare you. In fact, I almost didn't publish this post at all. But this is what happens here and I'm not going to hide it from anyone. Just know that I'm very careful when I have to go to work or anywhere else in the city.)

1 comment:

  1. I remember when you told me about this. It is definitely very scary and there doesn't seem there is much you can do to protect yourself. Be careful.