The Chicken Bus of Guatemala

20 OCT 2015
by: Adam | posted in: Globetrotting, Educational | comments: 0
Sometimes we forget an essential piece of the American experience. It’s just so typical, we don't know there's something inherently unique about it. I'm speaking about those ubiquitous yellow school buses. No matter what time period or part of the country one grew up in, everyone knows what it’s like to sit in one of those buses. The piercing level of pure noise, how you felt every bump 2x as much when you were sitting in the back, the cranky bus driver never failing to turn the microphone up to 10. Well, just like your long-suffering childhood bus driver is finally relishing retirement down south, so too is your childhood bus. As a chicken bus.

From this...

Flickr: Jeremy
Flickr: Jeremy

 

TO THIS!

 

Flickr: David Dennis
Flickr: David Dennis

Naturally, when buses reach a certain age they are taken out of use, because kids are precious or something. When their time comes, like Frodo going to Valinor, they go on a journey across the border and down to Guatemala, never to return. There they are put up for auction, customized with loud, blazing colors, and continue their life as a chicken bus, ferrying people back and forth through Guatemala. It’s like your seemingly milquetoast bus driver moving to Key West, getting tatted up, and leading a Guns n’ Roses cover band. While we don't know what that would look like, we do know the end results of our boring yellow school bus. It's definitely an upgrade.

 

Flickr: Ken Mayer
Flickr: Ken Mayer

The term chicken bus comes from the way people are stuffed into the bus. Like chickens. It could also be a reference to the fact that these buses often carry livestock as well as people.

 

Flickr: Semio
Flickr: Semio

The young man hanging out the door acts as the conductor. His main responsibility is to be loud, so everyone knows where they're at and where they're going. This method probably works better than most of the wonky subway cars in America. He also takes the toll so his partner can just focus on driving.

 

Flickr: Gui Seiz
Flickr: Gui Seiz

While the outside looks a lot less familiar, the inside sure brings back memories.

 

Flickr: Christopher William Adach
Flickr: Christopher William Adach

 

The bus drivers are the ones who decorate and name the buses, and like any other artist, the colors and images they choose reflect their own spirit and personalities. The route the bus runs is displayed on the top - in this case the bus is running from Momos to Xela.

 

Flickr: Christopher William Adach
Flickr: Christopher William Adach

The names chosen range in inspiration. They could be a woman's name, a word they hope the bus embodies, or maybe something related to Christianity. Again, it's up to the driver.

 

Flickr: Adam Baker
Flickr: Adam Baker

These buses are mostly used by locals, but can be useful for travelers too. They're cheaper, run quite a bit, and gives you an authentic Guatemalan traveling experience.

 

Flickr: ~*Bomba Rosa*~
Flickr: ~*Bomba Rosa*~

This is the short version of it. If you want the long version of it, there’s a great documentary called La Camioneta (100% on Rotten Tomatoes, available on Netflix) that looks at how these yellow school buses have been intricately woven into the vastly different lives of those in America and those in Guatemala.

 

Title photo via Flickr: Semio
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