Rolling Circle Press

Mill Valley, California

San Salvador buses

The traffic was dense with buses, old Blue Bird school buses from the States refitted as municipal buses, individually decorated with monograms, mottoes, talismans, saints and angels, flames around the wheel wells, and names like “Cristo Vive,” “Moto Ecológico” (this on a super-smoker), “Bad Girl,” “Jesusito es Señor,” “Spider Man,” “In God We Trust,” “Crazy for you,” “All American,” “No Problem.” Some had shark fins on the roof and blue neon lights on the bumpers and undercarriages that gave them an eerie glow, a spoiler on the rear roof, rear springs dropped as if outfitted to be in a speed contest despite their cargo of men going to work, kids to school, women bringing vegetables home from the market.

The conductors were hyped-up salesmen entreating people, Get on now! My bus the best bus! Never find a better! Last chance! ¡Corra corra si! ¡En corra corra ve! ¡Paseo paseo paseo! Then the ungainly vehicle lurches away spouting smoke, doors left open. In the rear seat of one he spotted a man with a drum set playing loud and fast. Vendors boarded at stops and traffic lights and forced their way through the passenger compartment with green beans, ice water in little plastic bags, guineos, then rushed out the back door before the bus got totally up to speed.