Riding the Bus in Cusco, Perú
During this past spring semester, I took Urban Anthropology with Dr. Lori Lee. In our class we read an ethnography about riding the bus, Traveling Light: On the Road with America’s Poor by Kath Weston. I think that this course prepared me in an unexpected way for Perú. The time that I have been in Cusco, I have taken every opportunity to ride the city bus.
When I ride the bus with a group, or alone, it has been a great way to find my way around the city and understand my location in relation to other locations. Each ride is only 70 centimos (about 0.21 cents). The traffic in Cusco makes its own path. Every driver weaves through the lanes whether they are driving their personal vehicle, a taxi, or the bus. Inside the bus is usually overcrowded with people of every age. The passengers standing sway with the movement of the bus. The passengers who are seated listen to music, talk on the phone, talk with one another, hold on to their children, or watch outside the window.
When there are parades and festivals, or if it is during lunch hour, the riding the bus from Avenida de la Cultura to Plaza de Armas, or vice versa, takes 40 minutes or more instead of the normal 15 minutes. This is a long, hot, and very Closter-phobic ride. Riding the bus in the morning and evening is typically more tranquil. People are on their way to work, school, the hospital, and other daily tasks in the morning. In the evening, people are on their way home.
When getting on the bus at the Paradero (bus stop), a bus representative hops off the bus while it is coming to a stop and calls out the locations like an auctioneer. You have to be very quick because the bus only stops for a few seconds and sometimes you have to catch the bus while it is taking off because the next bus is seemingly centimeters from crashing into its bumper. Just as quickly as you get on the bus you have to be ready to get off. It is important to already have your change in hand and call out “baja” to make it clear that you need to get off.
Sometimes really interesting things happen on the bus, as we read in Traveling Light. One day while a group of three of us were on the bus for only about two minutes the tire blew, the bus brushed the side of a building, and crushed a light on the building. In a matter of seconds traffic was jammed and everyone was out of the bus and looking for a new form of transportation. Also, during some rides people will present their sales pitch for candy, books, psychological services, and more, and afterwards they will push their way through to every person and ask if they are interested. Very few people accept offers and make purchases. Another time while I was riding the bus alone, a man played his guitar and asked for tips for his performance.
To say the least, I have enjoyed riding the bus as one form of experiencing the culture, city, and life here in Cusco, Perú.This entry was posted in 2016, Cusco