Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles THOMAS: Hi, I'm Thomas Morton. We're here in the sewer system of Bogota, Colombia, a place where for the past 30 years, the city's kind of lower-rung street kids have sought refuge from the right wing death squads, which fairly regularly patrol the city above. In the late '80s, kind of the height of the epidemic of street kids here, small business owners and kind of the wealthy elite started raising death squads to help rid their property of what they thought as disposables, a process which they kind of cheerfully called social cleansing. One of the only people in Colombia to help the sewer children, Dr. Jaime Jaramillo, has pulled thousands of kids out of the pipes. But at the same time, a lot of them still remain. We asked Dr. Jaramillo to take us down here and show us how the kids live in some cases and what's in store for the refugees on their way in. This is the same tube that 15 years ago our friend Alberto lived in. We're going to go sit down and talk with Alberto about having lived in the sewers and about how he's been since. God, not having light down there. Just the prospect of that makes me shudder. ALBERTO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: We're getting suited up. We got these fishing waders. This almost seems like it might even be a little excessive. But I guess, considering what we're about to do, better safe than coming down with cholera or something. Dr. Jaime is going to give me acupuncture now to help my immune system. I hate needles. So I'm concerned about this. It's treacherous even getting down here. Did you see the rat? Yeah, I just saw that rat scurry up there. So this is it. This is bottom of the barrel as far as Western civilization goes. A cave would almost be a step up because it wouldn't be filled with shit. And you wouldn't be worried about swimming in filth. It's appalling. THOMAS: [INAUDIBLE]. There's all these burnt-up bottles used as pipes. This is all their stuff. This is where they smoke-- DR. JARAMILLO: Basuco. THOMAS: --basuco. DR. JARAMILLO: This is crack cocaine. THOMAS: OK, I'm going to keep going further in. You can see all the fucking gnats and flies. At this point, I'm pretty fucking scared. THOMAS: [GASPS]. You can get a fresh waft of the smell. This is, like, shit stalactites, shit-sicles. They're smoking out of bent-up cans. They're right behind us. They don't want to be filmed, though, because they're worried about the police finding out where they are. They're sitting on, like, the little table. DR. JARAMILLO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: We caught them right when they were about to smoke up. So they're a little jumpy and obviously didn't want to be filmed. Because they're afraid that if this gets out, then the police will know where they are. And they'll come and they'll beat the shit out of them. That's fresh shit. THOMAS: There's the manhole. THOMAS: Ninja Turtles had a nicer setup than this. So all his stuff, he just stays here? THOMAS: Oh, OK. That's his little drug kit. That's where he sleeps. THOMAS: Is it? No, it's moist. DR. JARAMILLO: Look. THOMAS: So how long have you been coming into the sewers? You told us yesterday you got started helping kids in the '70s. [SHRIEKING SOUND] DR. JARAMILLO: Could somebody else. THOMAS: What was that? Was that a siren? DR. JARAMILLO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: Well, we should go, though. DR. JARAMILLO: They [INAUDIBLE]. They use [INAUDIBLE] rocks, crack cocaine. And their survival depends on how high the-- THOMAS: The water is. DR. JARAMILLO: --their head, above the human waste. ALBERTO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] DR. JARAMILLO: All the canals-- THOMAS: They're all connected, right? DR. JARAMILLO: You may not know that they are watching you. But they are watching you all the time. THOMAS: Like we're almost on the edge of the suburbs. We're on some kind of highway right now. There's some apartment buildings right there and a couple gas stations. But that's basically it. Where exactly this canal runs, they're all kind of coming up it. They're just kind of collecting right now. It's the same thing that happens out in the countryside with the paramilitaries. What it is, is landowners get upset about liberal agitation, socialists, and stuff like. And so they get together. And they organize these little militias, and say, go out and take care of this for us. When we got here, the guards over there on the first tier of those high rises, they started flashing their lights down at us and on the dudes walking around down there. So that's what they've got to worry about. Maybe one of them will chat with us. That's about as dead as a rat can get. How often do you have trouble with the police? ROBERTO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: Ow. That's terrible. Do you have run-ins with paramilitaries? ROBERTO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: When? ROBERTO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: So they're trying to jump the stream to keep their feet from soaking. That was pretty good. Oh, here come biker cops. Man, I feel like I'm in middle school again. [MOTORCYCLE MOTOR REVVING] THOMAS: Yeah, we're cool. Do you want to hang the camera? Oh, here's the police. I went from scared as shit to enjoying our fiesta to back to scared as shit. Because here are the cops. Any time it stops being intense, something happens. POLICE OFFICER: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: I think we may have fucked up their spot for the night. Everybody's leaving now. Roberto told us that they're due for a cleansing. ROBERTO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: Here's a little bit of heaviness, 15 years ago in this manhole there were a rotating group of kids living there. One night, death squads came over, popped open the lid, and poured gasoline onto them. And just set the whole thing a-fucking-blaze. It burned, like, 22 kids. The ground's a little more dry than the other places. Were you on the streets when they gasolined the manhole by the elevator? PABLO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: There was a place that foiled, like that the police couldn't get into with their guns. So they just burned everybody. PABLO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: They just left the burning kids there? They didn't even remove their bodies? The entire escape tunnel is filled with water. You can it's already dripping down over here. What happens when it rains? PABLO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: Do you know people who have drowned? Have friends of yours drowned? [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: Jesus. PABLO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: Is that the last time you were harassed here? Or have they harassed you since? [SPEAKING SPANISH] TRANSLATOR: They usually pick Sundays, such as today. THOMAS: This is like one of those ghost stories, where they're like, and it was 30 years ago tonight in this very camp spot. And then they describe exactly what you're wearing as what the killer liked. So we're fucking stepping off into the abyss here. It's starting to get really slippery. The smell, I feel like it gets exponentially worse with every step. Right now we're at, like, county fair port-a-john. I mean, this is just shit. DR. JARAMILLO: This is human waste, a rat. THOMAS: Probably shouldn't be touching the wall. This right here, this keeps going. How long has it been since it rained? DR. JARAMILLO: A month ago. THOMAS: It was a month. And it's like we're shin deep. Were there people in here? DR. JARAMILLO: Yeah. THOMAS: How many? DR. JARAMILLO: [INAUDIBLE] like 20. But the other side. THOMAS: How far? DR. JARAMILLO: Like 10 minutes. THOMAS: So we're right at the point where it's no longer safe. DR. JARAMILLO: And it's not good to stay very long here. THOMAS: People could come. I can't see. Can you kill the light for a second? Because nobody comes here with flashlights. Jesus Christ! I can barely-- I just want to see how long before my mind starts swimming. ALBERTO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: You can kind of see a little bit of light there. And a little bit of light there. ALBERTO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: I'm see shadows move. I feel like shit is crawling up inside me. I don't know if maybe there's a rat chewing on me. FEMALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: It's like submitting yourself to madness. OK, let's get the lights back on. I'm fucked. That did it. That did it for me. Lights, please. Thank you. Holy shit. FEMALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: We ran into this guy who lives here in what he calls his penthouse by the sea whose wife is also pregnant. JOSE: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: By far the most luxurious place. I had to wedge myself up through a little hole to get in here. It's really spacious and safe feeling. But you have to watch out so you don't cut your head on the pipes. How long have you been in this place? JOSE: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: Your wife is expecting? JOSE: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: When the baby is due, will you go to the hospital? Or will you-- LADY: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: Do you cook your food in here? JOSE: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: It's gotten bigger back here. You can stand up all the way. JOSE: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: Has anybody ever found you here? Has anybody ever bugged you? JOSE: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: Is there food in here? JOSE: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: Here's the bedroom. This is a pretty sweet setup. [LAUGHTER] JOSE: [SPEAKING SPANISH] THOMAS: The other puppies.