Bus 174

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Sandro Barbosa do Nascimento

Sandro Barbosa do Nascimento

I have always heard about the kidnapping of the bus 174, and only today I had the chance to watch the documentary “Bus 174” (2002) directed by José Padilha. This incident happened on June 12, 2000 and I was very far from Brazil – that is why I was kind of ignorant about this tragedy. It comes with no surprises, our society is disgusting.

Sandro Barbosa do Nascimento is “not merely poor, or hungry, or doomed to poverty, but suffers from the agonizing psychic distress of being invisible. Literally invisible: Brazilians with homes and jobs go about their lives while unable to see people like Sandro, who exists in a parallel universe (Roger Ebert)”. Adults like Sandro had a violent and/or traumatic background, falling easy for drugs and robberies, scaring the middle and high Brazilian class that feels no responsibility for them and, most of the time, these Brazilians are also against the legal abortion while they have no intention to adopt and are – more and more – crowding the clinics for assisted reproduction.

He saw his mother being stabbed to death. His father was never in the picture. He had a sister and an aunt (Tia Ju, Julieta do Nascimento) but he ran away – probably – to forget the place where he witnessed his mother’s murder. He lived on the streets like all other homeless children. He had been in jail many times. The social worker, Yvone Bezerra, talks of the boy’s dreams – he wanted to find a job and have a home (Roger Ebert). Later he found a woman who gave him a home and who he started calling mom (Dona Elza), but he was probably already taken by the drugs. The sociologist, Luís Eduardo Soares, interprets that the hostage situation and the media coverage enabled Sandro to step out of his invisibility, being seen and heard for the first time.

The director, Padilha, went “inside a crowded jail. Cells are so crowded that the prisoners must live in shifts, half lying down while the other half stand. The temperature is over 100 degrees. The food is rotten, water is dirty, disease runs quickly through the cells, and some prisoners are left for months or years without charges being filed; they have been forgotten. A nation that could permit these conditions dare not call itself civilized (Roger Ebert).”

But even less civilized is the conclusion of the 174 kidnapping: the police in an attempt to shoot Sandro, shot one of the hostages, Geísa, and few minutes later Sandro is intentionally struggled to death by the police – right in front of everybody, inside the police car. Sandro didn’t kill any of the hostages. On the other hand, his assassins were considered not guilty by a popular jury and, they are not only free but still working for the police.

Sandro was one of the survivors of the horrible Candelaria Massacre – when 7 homeless children and 2 homeless young adults were brutally murdered in the vicinities of the Candelaria church where they used to spend the night. The massacre took place on July 23, 1993. From the 62 survivors, at least 39 were later murdered – including Sandro. Twenty years after the massacre, we are ironically “celebrating” this horror with discussions about the reduction of age for criminal responsibility (the Brazilian term brings a different meaning) with about 93% of Brazilians in favor of reducing this age from 18 to 16 years old. Brazilians have learned nothing, and we are still giving our back to these invisible children, and allowing them to become criminals and/or exterminated by the government via police. A note: Some of the assassins of the massacre were considered guilty but are already free, and the other two were never even considered guilty.

The director, Padilha, “uses the tragedy as an opportunity to examine poverty and the plight of street people in Rio de Janeiro”. “Bus 174” won the Special Mention Amnesty International Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat).”

Sandro Barbosa do Nascimento had few moments of visibility while alive, and certainly not how he had dreamt about. Sandro is one of the most important faces of Brazil. We have millions of Sandros in Brazil. We have millions of Sandros in the world.

Despite the fact that I always knew how Sandro was going to die, during the movie, I was picturing him being killed by a competent snipper that could end his life with just one single shot that he would die in less than 7 milliseconds. This world is not fair and he never deserved that life. Where are we going to?

An extended sociological analysis was written by Leandro Coelho Rocha.

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