standing taxis and burning tires

What I first noticed about El Salvador was how rural it was.  It’s not really a big country but, as I drove along, I noticed a lot of farm land.  It seemed sparsely populated and the biggest collections of people I saw were in the large towns and in the capital.  I suppose that I expected the country to be more crowded and I wondered if so many years of civil war had driven some of the people out of the rural areas and to the cities?

When I coasted into the capital (below), I saw a few sights that made me scratch my head in wonderment…

It seems that every where I looked I saw people using small import pickup trucks as taxis and the people would just stand in the back holding on for dear life.  When I shot the photo below, we were racing down a mountain at 70 mph (115 kph).  If the truck crashed certainly all of those people would die.  Worse yet, their weight raises the center of gravity of that truck making it a rollover candidate.  I just couldn’t believe that this was a standard and normal means of transportation here.  I saw trucks like this all through the city and coming in and out of the city on the highways.

The old American school bus is not unique to El Salvador.  I saw old American school busses in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, here and in Nicaragua.  I would see on the side of the bus the name of the school district that it came from and even saw a bus from the rival high school in my home town!  It seems that when these busses are no longer road worthy, they are shipped to Central America where they find a new role as mass transport.  The busses leaked oil, belched blue smoke and sounded like they were about to die but someone kept them running.  And judging by their frequency that I saw them, they must be running them with a profitable margin.

And how they decorate these busses.  You would have to go to Kazakhstan to find a more colorfully decorated bus.  To my eye they are a bit tacky but the bright colors seem to be all the rage south of the border…

Another thing that I never understood was why everyone burned their old tires – and, on the side of the road!?  I saw burning tires everywhere.  I also saw burning trash and the smell of burnt trash became a reminder of Central America years past as I smelled it in so many other third world countries.  I can understand burning the trash, but why would you burn a tire on the side of the road?  It made no sense to me and no one seemed able to answer my question as to why.


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