Bus 174

            The 2002 Brazilian film Bus 174 is vastly different from the films shown previously in the semester.  Instead of a dramatization of events that either happened or were merely representative of the sentiment present in Latin America during the time depicted, Bus 174 is a documentary featuring interviews of those present during the Bus 174 Affair in which Sandro do Nascimento took the passengers of a Rio de Janeiro city bus hostage in June of 2000.  By providing interviews of people who knew him before the incident and key players on the day of the hostage crisis the filmmakers paint a complex portrait of Nascimento and what factors shaped the person who terrorized a nation.  Though the actual cause of the events may never be known, the tenor of those interviewed suggests that Nascimento was driven to it by circumstances beyond his control. 

            It is not uncommon for those in Latin America who commit crimes to feel that it was done out of necessity.  In “The Drive-by Victim”, author Alberto Salcedo Ramos recounts a Colombian evening in which he was kidnapped, beaten and robbed by a cab driver and two other accomplices.  After handing over his ATM card and pin number, the driver explains that they have to rob him in order to pay the ransom for one of their friends because they are unemployed.  The implication is that had these men been in possession of steady employment, they would not need to engage in illegal activity to acquire the funds to free their friend.  Though this incident did not occur in the same country as the Bus 174 Affair, it is indicative of the sentiment present throughout the region.

            An important feature that these crimes share is that the perpetrators did not want to kill their victims.  The in case of Ramos, one of the captors states “We’re thieves, man, not killers… The only ones who die are the ones who don’t cooperate, and you’ve behaved well.”  By stating this, the kidnappers lose some of their power over Ramos so there is no reason for them to say it unless it was true.  This is the same case as with Nascimento.  Though he told the police and media on numerous occasions that he would kill the hostages on the bus, he assured the people inside that he would not. 

            In the article “The City as a Vision”, Mark D. Szuchman implies that the roots of this desperation were established long before either of those events took place.  He states that in the writings of Luis dos Santos Vilhena he “describes the ‘grandeur’ of Bahia but worries about uncontrolled urban growth with the ‘construction of buildings wherever anyone wished, without any thought for the future’”. Szuchman further states that many of the laws affecting the people in the Americas were implemented without the consultation of those living on the continent.  This lack of foresight and disregard for the true needs of the colonies continued through the centuries and led to the lack of opportunity for the poor of Brazil.  With the needs of the poor not being adequately met, it was only a matter of time until tragedy unfolded at the hands of an unstable individual.