Bus 174

Bus 174 is a documentary detailing the hijacking of Bus 174 by a former street kid, Sandro. But if the film only focused on the hijacking itself, the running time would have been much shorter. Instead, the film not only shows footage from actually news cameras but also interviews Sandro’s former social worker, friends, and family members. The purpose behind this background information on Sandro is obvious: to determine what factors helped shape is life of crime and what shapes urban crime throughout Brazil and other Latin American countries.

When Sandro was a young boy, he grew up in the suburbs around Rio de Janiero, the poor neighborhoods where violence, drugs, and unemployment are high. These outer slums that ring many South American cities are partially caused be the phenomenons of urbanization and modernization. In the article “The Heart that Bleeds,” mariachi players that that been performing in the same square for decades, find their clientele cut off by construction of a new subway line (Guillermoprieto 241). Although the subway lines contribute to the modernization of Mexico’s public transportation (Guillermoprieto 242), it causes unemployment for the mariachi players (242). This lack of jobs is the same concern behind opposition to the NAFTA treaty being signed at the time of article (244). Unemployment is often the first step towards violence. Because he could not read and write, Sandro had little options to find employment in a city with few unemployment resources. This lack of employment was partially what drove him to rob the bus and is the motivation behind the hijackers in the “Drive By Victim” article (Ramos 137). The changes that modernization brings about leads to urbanization, but when a city cannot support the influx of people, unemployment arises, and then later desperation and violence.

It is not just a loss of jobs that motivates people to violence though. Loss of community is also a factor. Mexicans worry that the absorption of U.S. culture into Mexican culture will slowly eliminate the ties that bind the Mexican people, leading to conflict (Guillermoprieto 244). In the same way, the hijackers in Ramos’s article suffer from a loss of community, as their gang member is held for ransom (Ramos 137). In the same way, Sandros’ first community, his family in the suburbs, is torn from him after the murder of his mother. Then, his second family, the other street children, are massacred by off-duty police officers, leaving him alone. All the articles as well as the film seem to agree that a loss or fraction of a community can drive a person to violence as much as the loss of a job.

Finally, even people forced to violence are not always violent people. Some of them suffer from desperate circumstances yet are merciful to their victims. In “The Drive By Victim,” the trio of robbers insist they are only performing the crime to help out a friend and cannot muster the money through legitimate means (Ramos 137). Despite the violent threats of one of the men, the other two robbers seem sympathetic to their victim and assure him that they will not kill him if he cooperates (Ramos 136). They eventually leave him mostly unharmed. In the same way, rather than kill his victim, Sandro makes one of them fake their death and then releases the other hostages. The death of the final hostage can be contributed as much to the police officer as to Sandro, showing that the hijacker, although a criminal, perhaps wasn’t naturally violent.

Unemployment and loss of community can create desperate circumstances that drive otherwise peaceful people into lives of crime. These factors are important when studying cases like Sandro and determining where blame lies in incidents like Bus 174.