Bus 174

 The documentary, Bus 174, successfully  gave Sandros the audience he hoped to gain. Given that this story ended with the death of an innocent girl, it is important to try to understand how fully Sandros suffered from his personal grief and also from a system of a corrupt and failing social welfare. We learn from the film that Sandros is part of a staggering statistic of “street kids” who roam the streets homeless as outcasts of society. The terrible conditions Sandros endured: on the streets, in the juvenile halls, and later in the over-crowded prisons are of such low standards that they demonstrate what Mark Szuchman wrote in his essay on the development of urban culture stating ” the weight and power of municipal authorities have been weakend significantly in cities where crime and overcrowding have made human life a cheap–and disposable–commodity”(25). Though it is much more complex than simple cause and effect, Sandros’s history of mistreatment by authorities was directly involved in his decision to oppose their order and take hostages on Bus 174.   

Loosing his mother at a young age robbed Sandros of the only parent he knew. The violent nature of her death should have warranted therapy to be offered immediately but provision of this service was not indicated in the film. If there could have been some sort of intervention for Sandros early on he may not have withdrawn from the family he still had. Unfortunately, Sandros would turn to street life to replace the life he once knew.

As interviews in the film of actual street kids show, it did not take long for the naive newcomer to learn quickly the buisness of survival, namely ”how to hustle”. The kids in the film learn to sell whatever they can to get money for food or for drugs that will help dull the pain and minimize the anguish of daily struggles. Some try to be noticed with juggling and balancing acts or by selling hand-made trinkets but most are busy trying to not be seen, wrapping their heads with clothing. Covering their faces probly serves several purposes but one strong possiblity is that they are made to feel shameful of their state of poverty. As Szuchman explains community leaders have historically defended that “the poor were the vicitims of their own moral shortcomings”(19) rather than the real problems of economic and social depravity.

Though interviews of Sandros’ adopted-mom tell that Sandros was attempting to get off the streets, he remained very troubled and had difficulty adapting to “normal life”. Given a home, he could not get accustomed to sleeping on an actual bed and prefered the floor. He was fascinated by simply having his own space. These basic needs had become estranged to him.

Sandros’s four hour stand-off with the Rio de Janeiro police ended questionably as to who the real criminals were. Sandros was very much a product of his environment. Criminals formed out of circumstance are also reflected in The Drive By Victim written by Alberto Ramos when the robbers admit that they are robbing Ramos because they are all unemployed and owe money to clear up some gang relations gone badly(137). However influenced he was by circumstance, Sandros should still have had to take responsibiliy for the hostage situation. What is troubling is that it is undiscernable whether the girl hostage would have died without the blunders of the police force and SWAT teams. They are at least partly responsible for the death of the hostage and wholly responsible for the death of Sandros. Sadly, vindication for Sandros death will not come from the cops being held accountable for his death as they are allowed to return to their jobs. Hopefully this film can continue to give Sandros and other’s in his position a voice that has previously gone unheard.