Bus 174

The film, Bus 174, tells the story of a street kid, Sandro do Nascimento, who held a city bus hostage for several hours as part of a robbery, but more importantly it explores the conditions which has led street kids to take up crime. The film looks at the huge number of street kids and the homeless in a different light by looking at them as victims of problems within society. These problems include overcrowding of prisons and poor policing force, loss of culture and the family, and modernization.

First of all, street kids are birthed through the failings of the Latin American police force. The film looks at the deplorable, inhumane conditions of the prison, which Sandro stayed in and escaped from. It is shocking the prison could be that bad. According to Szuchman, the power of the police has been reduced in cities. Crime and the overcrowding of prisons have made human life cheap (25). In addition, he said that safety in cities is not guaranteed (25). And in the narrative by Ramos, he does not blame his muggers for being the problem. He blames his society for being so screwed up that he thanks the thieves who mugged him at the end of the experience, probably for not killing him (137). Also in that narrative, at one point, one of the muggers says, ” If there’s a shoot-out, the police won’t suffer. You’ll be the first to take a bullet (134).” Ramos believes that statement and knows the police won’t be able to protect him. He sees the problems of his society and that the muggers are trying to earn a living also.

According to the film, the loss of family is the biggest factor which led Sandro to lead a life of crime. His father was never in his life, and his mother was murdered when he was a little boy. Scuchman said sociologists have found that migrant’s social relationships are very important and essential for their urban survival (22). In fact, it is only when Sandro finds a woman who adopts him as her son that Sandro seems to be on the right path. He tells his adopted mother that he is trying to find a job. Szuchman also said the city has shattered families, traditions and small communities (25). The loss of culture and heritage is the biggest theme among Guillermoprieto’s article. He describes the loss of mariachi and ranchera music, which used to be a huge cultural activity bringing together the rich and poor (241). He also criticizes fast food restaurants, such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, as being representative of foreign influence on Mexico (247). The middle class are the ones who frequent fast food chains in Mexico, going there because it is foreign.

Modernization is an additional factor which has majorly affected Latin American countries, often badly. For example, in 1837, railroads built in Mexico linked the city to rural areas, and then Bourbon reforms created new trade outlets in Chile. But those Spanish reforms had a negative impact on Lima’s merchants and local traders, and inner cities suffered the reforms (Szuchman 13). Later on, Latin American countries used the import-substitution theory, which increased industrial development and production in the cities. It was created during the Great Depression when there was a large absence in foreign investment (Szuchman 21). Furthermore, more recently, Guillermoprieto describes the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as being a bad thing for Mexico. The agreement reduces trade barriers between Mexico, the United States and Canada. Guillermoprieto said the agreement is cultural imperialism (246). The agreement would reduce domestic influence and increase foreign influence.

So, the combination of a dysfunctional police force, the ruin of culture and the family, and  modernization increasing foreign influence on Latin American countries has created a detrimental effect on Latin America. Kids have taken to the streets and committed crimes just to stay alive. Like the film shows, the street kids don’t want that life. It’s just the life they have fallen victim to.