In December of 1997, Clowns Without Borders USA toured Chiapas with a budget of about $5,000. Wise Fool, in collaboration with CHAOS Collective and CWB – USA, presented a puppet circus performance: Circos de Manos.
The delegation of 13 women and a four-year-old boy traveled in a converted school bus from Texas to San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. They performed Circos de Manos in 16 different towns and communities across Chiapas.
During the journey, the clowns learned first-hand about the importance and effectiveness of laughter as a healing force, a boundary breaker, and a common bond. They witnessed children from opposite sides of a split Zapatista/PRI-sympathizer community (who do not even speak in school) laughing and playing together. They performed, at the request of the elders, for the victims of the Acteal massacre, and were moved by their resilience and brilliant smiles in the face of total loss.
In the town of El Bosque the clowns were convinced to stay an extra day to give shadow puppetry and mask-making workshops for kids and adults. The participants made incredible art in just one day and were inspired to continue using the lo-tech, recycled material techniques to create art for future celebrations. The lasting effect of this single extra day was powerful, and compelled CWB to include workshops as part of the base itinerary for the 2000 expedition.