balineros

The speeding angels of Línea 5
The speeding angelsAnother instance of culturally appropriating the automobile, going well with bososoku, zelda vans, and bedford’s metamorphosis. Good-looking Joanna Michna, who graduated in anthropology together with me here in Munich, has made a great ethnological documentary movie on Colombia’s balineros, called ‘The speeding angels of Línea 5’. I would translate ‘balinero’ as ‘Of the ball bearings’, or less literally: ‘Dances with trucks’. For everybody capable of receiving German television’s infamous ‘third channels’, her film is rebroadcasted—D’oh!—was rebroadcasted yesterday night. Sorry. But! WDR will rebroadcast it again on Thursday 14 April 2005, 08:45-09:30 AM local, that is German time. The early bird catches the truck.

In Colombia there is only one east-west connection viable for heavy trucks, which crosses the Andes and the Central Cordillera’s high passes—the infamous Línea 5. This highway is the country’s most important lifeline. All commodities, e.g. to and fro Buenaventura, Colombia’s vital harbour, are transported via the Línea 5.

Going through sheerly infinite bends and twists, the Línea 5 climbs up to 3200m above sea level—and down again on the other side. Steep serpentines, sudden falls in temperature, and wafts of mist make the transition over the passes extremely dangerous. At this needle’s eye between east and west the balineros live—them of the ball bearings. In there tinkered carts, made of some pieces of lumber and the hotly desired ball bearings, they speed to wherever they can help out or lend a hand. Here Loco is on the road since thirty years, up- and downhill, up to 80km/h fast. The balineros organize the truck traffic, fetch replacement parts, and guard broken down trucks while the drivers are away. Balineros are proud to earn a living by honest work.

15-year-old Felix desperately wants to become a balinero one day. That definitely is his biggest dream. Untill now he does the less honorable jobs, like washing the heavy-load-trucks. But since one year he has gathered all the necessary parts for his own cart. Now finally—after the first ride in his new cart he will join the order of the speeding angels of the Línea 5 …
more at 360°, and at WDR (both in German)

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