Photo Essay: Death of the Diablos Rojos Buses in Panama City, Panama


Unlike in the US, where the dominant bus line has the word “grey” right in the name, buses in much of Latin America are covered in bright artwork, stickers, flashing lights, and anything else the driver/owners can think of to one-up the competition in the unspoken bus beauty pageant that goes on in the street. In Panama, the local festive buses are called diablos rojos (red devils) not because of their looks but because of their reputation as overcrowded death traps. In March of 2013 all 1,200 diablos rojos in Panama City were decommissioned. Owners of diablos rojos in the capital were given US$25,000 per bus. Diablos rojos drivers who did not have too many tickets or deaths on their hands were also given the chance to train to drive Panama City’s new Metro Buses. After years of “service” the diablos rojos were unceremoniously rounded up in a large dirt lot at a giant field which was part of the old US Howard Air Force Base, and taken apart piece by piece. Hundreds of wheels were loaded into containers which we were told were headed to China. Mountains of scrap metal were created. Engines were lined up on the ground. And we were there to document the demise of the diablos.

Diablos Rojos bus Panama

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Colorful Red devil buses Panama City

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos junkyard demolition Panama City

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos bus demolition Panama City

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos junkyard Panama City

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Junked Diablos Rojos buses Panama City

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos tires Panama

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos bus detail

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos motors Panama City

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos junkyard demolition Panama

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos Panama City

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos junkyard Panama Pacifico

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos buses Panama

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Decomissioned Red devil buses Panama City

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos Panama export metal china

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos bus Panama City

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos bus junkyard Westin Hotel Panama

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Diablos Rojos detail Panama

The end of the line for Panama’s diablos rojos buses.

Here’s more about travel in Panama

 

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