The place of Power lines in Latin American Urban Landscape

Typical utility poles and power lines in Latin America
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In every Latin American country you may visit, you will come across this unusual kind of urban decor along the streets : utility poles sinking under the excessive weight of numerous cables, whether they are electrical, phone or internet wires. So far, only very few power lines are underground, most of them rule over the streets, from pole to pole, crossing streets and creating their own aerial junctions…

Why so many cables and wires?

Privatization of these sectors and the increasing competition between phone, cable and internet companies have only increased the trend ! Anytime a household decides to get a landline, to subscribe to cable TV or to change their internet provider, a team of technicians are sent by the contracted company to come and set up a new line from the house or building to the closest main utility pole. It doesn’t matter whether there is already an existing wire, from another provider or a previous tenant, they will install a new one. And if you cancel your previous subscription, don’t expect the provider to come and remove the from now on useless line : they won’t. So the amount of lines will just keep building up…

Problems caused by overloaded utility poles

As a result : many overloaded utility poles, an impressive amount of wires and cables hanging above your head, and some crazy entanglements ! In tree-lined streets, you’ll see how branches try to find their way through all the wires… and when a storm hits, you can be pretty sure there will be some power cuts, as falling branches take away the wires or vice versa : a falling utility pole takes away the tree that is entangled in its wires. Sometimes you can also experience the literal explosion of an overloaded transformer during a thunderstorm.

Power lines as pieces of modern urban art

Another more surprising consequence of the accumulation of various wires and cables on utility poles is how they get transformed into pieces of modern urban pieces of art. Just take a look above your head and you will soon see a multitude of various objects decorating the power lines : a lot of shoes, but also socks, bags or umbrellas are thrown onto the tangles and remain there indefinitely, giving it a touch of color and uniqueness for those, mainly tourists, who look up !

A Latin American feature

And as a matter of fact, it was one of the first things that jumped out on us when we first moved to Latin America. We had never seen so many power lines per pole, so randomly entangled, and even less with such original decorum ! And while we’ve got used to it, every time someone visits, it’s the same astonishment as we once had. But still, every once in a while, we still come across some new gem !

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