Yoe Suarez, Havana, 13 May 2018 — The signature of Bogota’s Transmilenio bus rapid transit system is not the swirl of humans that fills it during peak hours. Nor even the damp cyborg voice that announces the next station. The system’s signatures, at least in recent years, are the Venezuelans who take the risk, despite the prohibition announced at the entrances, to sell whatever they can in the spaces of the city’s Integrated Transportation System.
With the economic and governance crisis in Caracas, thousands of Venezuelans have crossed the border, just like Colombians did in earlier decades in the the other direction, fleeing military and paramilitary violence. It is curious how, in such a short time, a people transitions from being a receiver to a provider of emigrants.
The Transmilenio is the perfect gallery of Colombian misfortunes: displaced by the war, unemployed, disabled, now Venezuelans. The stories make a deep impression on people on a day in Bogota.
“Good morning, everyone,” says a voice from the articulated joint of the bus, and no one answers. “Thanks for that nice greeting. My name is Jorge and, as you know, in my country the reality is very difficult right now and since I have not been able to regularize my immigration status, I can’t find a job. I do this not because I like it, but to help my family. I have for you these delicious peanut snacks, to give as gifts, to eat. I will pass through the seats and if someone wants to help me out with what God puts in your heart, even if you don’t buy anything, I will thank you.”
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Miguel and I participated in a talent show in Caracas, where I excelled doing celebrity imitations. Now I want to sing a song by Romeo Santos, and if you think that I resemble him, please help me out with whatever you can.”
The boy twists some buttons on the portable speaker where he connects the microphone he has been talking about. A mannered and treacly voice fillsthe bus:
Your little heart is mine, mine, mine, mine, mine …
The people applaud. Some coins clink.
“Good evening to all passengers, with the respect you deserve, my name is Diana and I am offering you this packet of office supplies, two pens, markers and pencils for the small price of 6 thousand ‘little’ pesos [about $2.10 US]. Actually, I have a degree in Social Communication in Venezuela, and I came here to escape the shortages in my country. In Venezuela I had a decent job like you, and I know this moment is annoying for you, but there my salary was not even enough to buy milk for my daughter. The rate of inflation in Venezuela is the highest in its history … Think about your decision when choosing a president. I hope you can forgive the inconvenience.