Besides being a police officer, which we know is treacherous here. You will probably guess someone who works in high altitudes or high risk construction or engineering job, or something of the like.
Drumroll please…..and the winner of the most dangerous job in El Salvador is: Bus Driver!!
This is one of the riskiest professions in this country. At least once a week, if not 3 or more times, we see the image of yet another torched bus on the evening news. Bus drivers and ‘cobradores’ (fare collectors) are expected to pay rent demanded by gangs, which can range from 10 to 15 dollars a day, or a couple grand or more per month, depending on the route. When the driver cannot or wont pay rent, its “flames” to the vehicle, often accompanied by execution. Passengers are marched off the bus, and the gang quickly ignites its latest example of what happens when you fail to pay rent.
Buses also serve as a fine source of theft income for gangs, outside of extorting the driver. My husband was robbed on a bus, along with several other victims in August of 2009, in front of the infamous Tiendona market on his way back from English class. He was sad to have lost his wedding ring, but relieved to get away with his finger intact, as it was a struggle to remove the ring. Fortunately, the marero (gang member) helped him get it off by prying it off my husbands finger with his teeth. Needless to say, I have avoided buses in most of the city since arriving to live here.
Market vendors and small business proprietors experience extortion similar to that of bus drivers, and are often victims of violence when dues are not paid.
An additional factor in life-risking occupation is often brought on by the bus drivers themselves. A reckless “I own the road” attitude many of them have causes accidents left and right. As they race along a high speed chase to collect as many fares as possible (have to cover the ‘rent’ and then some) they endanger their life and everyone else’s.
March 28, 2010 – original diary entry, and updated.