Routes Around the World: Buses of Na Luum Caj

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Anson Stewart is a engineering and urban studies graduate of Swarthmore College who won a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, a one-year grant for independent study outside the United States. His project, “School Bus Migrations: Recycling Transit in the Global South,” follows old American yellow school buses now being used in a variety of ways in Central America, South America and Africa. He will blog regularly during his travels for STN. The following post is the first in this series.

Scheduled buses from Na Luûm Caj [a small Mayan village in Belize] to Punta Gorda run only four days a week, departing at 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. so that vendors can set up their market stalls at sunrise. This schedule is still an improvement over twenty years ago, when the majority of Toledo’s villagers had to ride into town in the back of pickup trucks.

Belize1The main bus owner in Na Luûm Caj is Felix Choc. He operates the 3:30 a.m. departure using a 1994 Blue Bird All American that was retired from a school district in Arizona earlier this year. Choc also owns a 1988 Thomas Built Buses/Ford conventional that made its way down from Illinois in 2003 and three older buses used for spare parts and scrap metal. Last year he sold a 1983 Thomas/Ford conventional, formerly Bus #26 in the fleet of Florida’s Duval County Public Schools, to his neighbor, Lucio Sho. Lucio, the brother of my host, now uses it to run the 3 a.m. departure.

Another highlight of my time in the village was an hour and a half long hike through the jungle to an old logging site. The holder of the logging title towed an old school bus up to the site and set it up as an overnight shelter for his workers.

Read the October 2010 issue of School Transportation News magazine for more on our ongoing series “Routes Around the World.” Visit Anson Stewart’s online blog to see a map of his travels, photos and more.