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My little bullet train

What a beautiful little insect in metal and chrome my father gave me ! It had curved beetle antlers in chrome, a narrow waist like a rebel wasp and the vibrating wing cases of its pedals. In the many spokes of its wheels there were the rainbows of a butterfly, and its tyres gave it the sticky adhesion of a worm. Dad it was my first Pegasus!


Armando Orozco Tovar

I’m not going to imitate Oliverio Girondo by writing “20 poems to read on the tram”. And although I was familiar with this mode of transport it never occurred to me at the age of 5 to dedicate a poem as Jorge Zalamea did in his masterly style, to his bike; which ought to be its anthem, as it  is taking over more and more in our capital and in all the civilized capitals of the world.

With the arrival a few years ago of the TransMilenio, I freed myself from all the buses, microbuses, shared taxis, minibuses, and from the fox, which I used to mount hurriedly during civic stoppages, and which on similar occasions I never gave up using because of its pleasant odour of a beast of burden, but rather due to the disgusting smells expelled from the beast’s intestines: a greasy mixture of petrol and carrot that could stop an army in its tracks.

I have fond memories of the tram, having travelled in it many times as an excited child, up to the point when my father asked me one day “What do you want to be when you grow up ?” And without waiting until the next stop on the Avenida de Chile, I said: “A tram driver”. With such bad luck that within a short time these magnificent packing cases on rails, which held onto the electricity cables as they went along, ended up being set on fire on April 9th.

Many people said it had been done by the transport companies themselves in order to make way for the North American buses in the decade of the 1950’s which was approaching.

These gondolas, which ended their days roaming the rundown back streets were always a disaster, with the exception of the Russian electric trolleybuses which had been imported in exchange for Colombian coffee.

Travelling on them was always a pleasure, with a uniformed conductor on board; as it was too on the red English buses which travelled from south to north along Highway Seven.

Not to speak of the minibuses, and the worst of it is that they are still running, making the city suffer: slow, uncomfortable, shabby, with free music that no-one asked for playing at full volume throughout the journey, and sometimes psalms recited through their loudspeakers as if we were in a Muslim country. What would it be like, if by an evil plan of fate we were left trapped for ever as in one of the circles of Dantes Inferno listening to this ghastly music ?

Then there were those badly designed vehicles, with seats fit for dwarfs, and at each block street vendors got on selling all kinds of things. And between the many stops thieves took the chance to do their work, (just the other day they stole my mobile and my camera without me realising). Worse still are the almost daily muggings by armed robbers who strip the passengers of all their belongings in a moment. And every so often someone is killed, as happened yesterday to a conductor who refused to hand over the fares he had collected.

The appearance a short time ago of the Transmilenio in Bogotá with its new power lines, is for people like me a happy event, but for others the contrary, because they are not used to their traffic jams and inconveniences. But the fact is that they only stop in pre-defined places, where they don’t spend a long time while passengers get on and off. Besides this they have seats reserved for people with difficulty moving, (usually occupied by someone else). Salesmen are banned and thieves are better controlled.

My little bullet train had many defects. It was given this name by me and not by the new mayor of the city at that time, not for its great speed compared to metros in other cities, but because then it was the most modern type of public transport known, in the country of the “holy-blood “ of Jesus.

Alegría de Pío, Nocvember 19th 2011

(Translated by: Graham Douglas – email:

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