What I have come to realize, over and over again, is that the importance lies not in whether adults will think a moment created for children is silly, but whether or not we’re creating a connection.
Robin Lara, CWB – USA Performing Artist
Clowns Without Borders partnered with CaliClown, a humanitarian clowning organization in Cali, Colombia. CaliClown works in many hospitals, favellas, and rehabilitation centers throughout Cali. This tour was an opportunity for three clowns from CWB – USA to partner with five Colombian clowns, building an ensemble show.
The original plan for this tour was to travel to the Department of Cauca, a western Colombian “red zone,” experiencing ongoing violence from drug trafficking and guerrilla war. In 2016, it entered into the peace process, which means that FARC is no longer operational. Local leaders asked CWB to work specifically with young adults, focusing on tolerance and empathy. Due to the conflict and politics surrounding the inauguration of Ivan Duque, Colombia’s president, CWB decided to change the itinerary. Two weeks before the tour’s start date, CWB and CaliClown made the difficult decision to spend more time in Cali, instead of the Cauca. After assessing the situation on the ground, the team was able to travel to the Cuaca for a few days.
This tour included 16 performances and two workshops, for a very diverse set of audiences. The team performed for all ages, ranging from little kids through high-schoolers, to adults in a drug-rehabilitation center.
I don’t know what life is like here. I have many ideas of Colombia, based on stories from people who have visited. When we arrive, I’m surprised to realize that it’s just like home. It’s incredible how close I feel to my people. In fact, Colombia is really similar to Puerto Rico. It’s the way people live, their energy and culture.
Arturo Gaskins, CWB – USA performing artist
CWB – USA has worked in Colombia since 2009, when it partnered with local artists in Bogatá to perform for vulnerable children. This will be CWB – USA’s 10th tour in as many years. In that time, internal displacement has increased, largely due to armed conflict over land-rights and drug trafficking. Additionally, natural disasters such as flooding, El Niño, and earthquakes add to the number of displaced people. The displaced population in Colombia is especially vulnerable as there are no camps and few social or humanitarian services available to them. Many people travel from town to town, and experience repeated violence and displacement.
In 2016, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement, in an attempt to end to a more than 50-year conflict. This was a highly significant development and a prerequisite for achieving durable solutions for people displaced by the conflict. However, obstacles remain, including victims’ compensation, land and property restitution, and actual implementation of the different points agreed upon in the peace deal.
Further, internal displacement in the country continues as other illegal armed groups remain active and violate a wide range of human rights. About 139,000 new displacements due to conflict and violence were recorded in 2017. In addition, sudden-onset disasters and large-scale land acquisitions for development projects have added to the complexity of displacement in the country. Colombia is an example of protracted displacement, which the UNHCR defines as those who have been displaced for five or more years, with no immediate prospects for a permanent solution.
Whenever possible, CWB – USA partners with local artists, and this tour was no exception. CWB – USA sent three artists to work with five performers from CaliClown.
Erin Crites has performed with CWB since 2010, and is the vice president of the board. This was Arturo Gaskins‘, first international tour with CWB. He first partnered with CWB – USA during the 2018 Puerto Rico tour. This was Robin Lara’s first tour.