Los Buseros

The microbus conductors, called buseros, are responsible for collecting fares, coordinating stops with the driver, and convincing passengers to board their microbus. To do the latter, they ride with their head and one arm out the window of the sliding side door, shouting and pointing to indicate their destination:

Busero [Points to the right to indicate the microbus will turn at KM 14]: Jinotepe Ticuantepe La Concha San Marcos Jinotepe…! (try saying that three times fast)

People waiting at bus stop [Shake heads]

Busero [Singles out one potential passenger]: Jinotepe Jinotepe!

Person who has been singled out [Shakes head again]

Busero [Turns his palm up and shrugs the shoulder that is out the window]: A donde va? (Where are you going?)

Person who has been singled out: Masaya

Busero [Looks condescendingly at person who has been singled out, as if to ask “What reason could you have for going to Masaya instead of Jinotepe?” Instead says to driver]: Dale! (Hit it!)

Buseros see themselves as the link between the driver and the passengers:

Busero [to passengers]: Quien va al Ministerio? (Who’s going to the Ministry of Works?)

Passenger [to busero]: Ministerio!

Busero [to driver]: Ministerio!

[Driver stops in front of the Ministry of Works]

Busero [to driver]: Suave, suave. (Smooth, smooth)

[Driver begins to creep forward even though passengers are still alighting]

Busero [to driver]: Suave! Te voy a avisar! (Slow down! I’ll let you know when we can leave!)

[Passengers finish alighting, a couple more come on]

Busero [to driver]: Dale! (Hit it!)

Busero [to passengers]: Quien va a La Colonia? [after waiting a second, to driver]: Nadie para La Colonia. (Nobody for La Colonia)

One of the buseros I rode and talked with a couple of times was named Cristian, a 19 year old student who wants to study systems engineering.  He usually worked in an internet cafe in Jinotepe and had just started working as a busero for a family friend.  The friend owns five microbuses and is part of a collective with about thirty vehicles.  Cristian told me that the collective owners want to buy more vehicles to take advantage of the high demand, but affording the new Toyota Hiaces is difficult.  While owners of larger buses have an abundant supply of affordable used vehicles (i.e. old school buses from the United States), practically all of the minibuses in Nicaragua are bought new from Casa Pellas (the nation’s Toyota distributor and a member of the massive Grupo Pellas conglomerate).