Each year in the United States hundreds of school buses are decommissioned. They are deemed unsafe for the transportation of passengers due to accidents, mechanical issues or structural concerns. This creates a huge industry for recycling of parts and materials, it also creates a huge amount of waste which ends up in junk yards and landfills. But it also creates an industry of importing school buses to Guatemala. Then they are repurposed into beautiful works of functional art!
The view inside a full chicken bus. This one is a bit fancier than most with fabric seat covers and matching curtains. But the over head racks and blaring sound system is universal!
Chicken Buses are the kings of the roadway. They push through the traffic like a ballerina dancing down a crowded sidewalk. Cars and pedestrians dodge out of the way, bowing to the beautiful rigs and allowing them to command the roadways.
Each Chicken Bus is driven by a crazy, brave man who knows the limits of his bus and pushes those limits fully. They scream down the mountain roads, cutting the dangerous hairpin turns too sharply and honking loudly at anyone in their way. And they chug up the mountain roads belching black, diesel smoke and roaring loudly with their huge throttles wide open. And if a group of passengers is gathered on the side of the road, they screech to a halt, stopping all traffic behind them! Horns begin honking and impatient car drivers wait for the king of the road to finish his loading and then burp the blast of black smoke and start the process again.
Each bus also has a worker hanging out the doorway who spends his whole day jumping in and out of the bus. This man throws the parcels of the old Mayan men onto the rooftop, he offers his hand to assist ladies on the steps, he holds babies so that mommies can board safely and he barks the destinations so that passengers know when to get on/off. This worker can often be seen running alongside the bus as he shouts to potential passengers and “sells” the fare to riders. Sometimes he jumps off and runs in front of the bus to stop traffic and help the driver to negotiate through cars and trucks. Then as the driver accelerates away, the helper jumps into the open doorway and clings there to the next stop.
This bus is full of passengers and has luggage and parcels on the rooftop.
The white bundles on top of this bus are recyclable materials (plastic bottles and cardboard) that a passenger is hauling to the recycling center to make some money.
Chrome is the name of the game!
The helper is hanging in the doorway, ready to assist passengers.
This helper has hopped off his bus to stop traffic and assist his bus in turning across the highway. Just another role of the agile, busy guy that hangs out the door of a Guatemalan Chicken Bus.
An agile Chicken Bus worker. Ready to jump out and run alongside, direct traffic and assist passengers with their bags and parcels.
There is an interesting movie which tells more about this massive recycling process. Here's the trailer for, "La Camioneta: The Journey of One American School Bus"
Click here for info on complete movie.
And keep watching for Chicken Buses in the backgrounds of our Guatemala story as more blog posts come up. We have much more to tell you about Guatemala!