My Experience Riding Guagua


Hola from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic! My stay here is challenging my understanding of the world and myself.  A lot of times when we think of the countries belonging to Latin America and the Caribbean we associate them as Third World countries. Although the term Third World refers to a country’s geopolitical stance, more so than its economic status, the term has become very derogatory. We think of Third World countries as poor, backwards, ignorant, barbaric and uncivilized. It is true that poverty exists in these countries, like any other, but countries like the Dominican Republic cannot be regarded by these terms. Just like Americans and European powers, people in the Dominican Republic are surviving and living their lives no matter the condition. This became very clear to me during my first time using Dominican transportation.

In order for me to head to my internship site I had to ride a guagua. A guagua is a broken down van that looks like it didn’t pass inspection, but somehow still in functions. There are no seat belts on the guagua, so you should definitely hold tight. The door of the van is tied back so the person in charge of collecting the fee can hop in and out of the van. In addition to collecting a fee, with using only his voice, the fee collector yells out or announces the number and direction that the guagua is heading to the people waiting on the streets. The driver speeds and competes with other guaguas, following a similar route, to get either the most people or to get ahead. The competition and speeding is just to make the most money. If you’re riding on the guagua, you may think you’re going to die. You might even think how is possible that everyone on the road doesn’t follow the rules. But then you ask yourself if rules even exist.

Through your panic attacks, thoughts about death, you consider your thoughts and begin to laugh. At least I did. I laughed about how dramatic my reactions were. Granted there could be an accident due to the way everyone was driving, I had to trust that all drivers knew what they were doing. The way people drive and the traffic in the Dominican Republic may surprise or even scare me but it’s normal to the natives. Does this transportation system stop people from living or getting to their destination to work? No it does not. This type of transportation is a way of life and no matter what it works. There is nothing barbaric or backwards about this system. Yes it may need some improvements, but ultimately it doesn’t set people back from getting to their destination. In fact, there’s a culture that develops from this form of transportation, where people communicate more and are sociable. This may be due to being squished together with strangers in the guagua and invading one another’s personal space. Anyways, people will make a means out of their lives no matter what the circumstance is or how outsiders view it.