We are more alike than we realize

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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            The documentary “Bus 174” provokes many strong emotions and teaches us all a valuable lesson on life and about the human spirit.

            The film depicts and tells the story about a bus hijacking in Brazil on July 12, 2000. The perpetrator’s name was Sandro do Nascimento. He was a “street kid,” a homeless man that was in and out of jail. He was also a drug addict that was haunted by the murder of his mother. Sandro held 10 people hostage for hours on Bus 174 in the city of Rio de Janeiro. It was an intense hijacking that tragically resulted in the death of a hostage, Geisa Firmo Gonçalves and Sandro himself. Although the hijacking may have only lasted less than 24 hours, the messages and themes from this incident resonate deeply.

            One of the biggest messages I got from the documentary was that every person, whether they are a celebrity, school teacher or drug dealer, wants to feel as though he/she matters. Every human being wants to exist and feel like he/she has a place in the world. Many people would say that this notion is validated through self-esteem. However it is not so easy to have self-esteem in society. For Brazilian street kids such as Sandro, it is almost impossible to have self-esteem or to even exist. In the film, sociologist Luiz Eduardo Soares stated that Brazilian society casts “social invisibility” on street kids through two ways: neglection and casting stigmas. In essence, Soares explained that by people neglecting street kids, as if they were not there, made the street kids such as Sandro feel invisible. The societal invisibility was even more compelling due to the fact that people labeled street kids as subhuman and not as worthy as other citizens.

Now I can preach about how horrible it is to neglect homeless people, particularly children, but I would feel like a hypocrite. I too am guilty of ignoring and racing past beggars on the street. When I lived on East campus, I never gave any money to the homeless people who frequented North Ave. I always told myself that I was not going to contribute to their drug addictions or other vices. I had an almost apathetic feeling towards them. I never really took the time to think that every single one of these people had a story. Many of them probably had a story similar to Sandro.

“Bus 174” does a particularly good job of giving a well rounded view of Sandro. They interviewed his social workers, friends, former acquaintances, hostages, and family members to recount his tragic story. Sandro’s mother was murdered when he was 6 years old in front of his eyes. She was pregnant with twins at the time. Shortly afterward, Sandro joined a street gang and left home forever. According to his social worker, XXX, Sandro “chose to forget their past and run.”

The death of his mother never left Sandro. On the infamous day of the hijacking, he repeatedly yelled at the authorities and to the crowd that they had killed his mother and that he had nothing left. He also yelled at the authorities about how they killed his friends in the notorious Candelaria Church Massacre. Consequently, it was very apparent that Sandro suffered and fought the demons of living a lonely life. I thought to myself how awful it was that the only people he ever cared about had all died brutally. Sandro, like a Shakespearian work, also lost his life tragically at the hands of the police. As sociologist Soares quoted, “Sandro finally accomplished social visibility by his death.” In essence, “for once, he became the main character of a novel when he exchanged his body, his soul for a moment of glorious existence.”

After watching this film, I was greatly affected by the caliber of sadness and tragedy. Sometimes I really could not tell if Sandro was the perpetrator or the greatest victim. The power of wanting to be loved really resonated within me. As I reflected on Sandro’s life, a popular quote came to my mind. It goes, “the greatest thing in life is to love and to be loved in return.” I thought how sad it was that the only people Sandro ever loved were taken away from him so viciously and abruptly. I thought about how desperate Sandro was to just want to be treated like a human being and how he longed to fight the social invisibility that was imposed on him. “Bus 174” really made me think about how we treat each other as fellow human beings. I reflected on how often we mistreat people who are different than we are and how much we really are afraid of what we do not know. It is always easy to follow a social stigma and outcast a person, or even a group of people that do not fit the social norm. However, “Bus 174” taught me that this is never an excuse. More than anything, this movie really reiterated the fact about how we all long to fulfill the same basic feelings for love and for existence. In the end, despite all of the cultural, political, ethnic, and other differences, we really are more alike than we realize.

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82 km (51 miles) traveled
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