What I have come to realize over and over again is that the important part is not whether adults will think a moment created with children in mind is silly, but whether or not we are creating a connection.
Robin Lara, CWB-USA Performing Artist
Clowns Without Borders partnered with Cali Clown, a humanitarian clowning organization in Cali, Colombia. Cali Clown works in many hospitals, flavellas, and rehabilitation centers throughout Cali. This tour was an opportunity for three clowns from CWB-USA to partner with five Colombian clowns to build 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, we had to change the itinerary. Two weeks before the tour’s start date, we 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 2 workshops, for a very diverse set of audiences. The team performed for all ages, ranging from little kids, to high school students, to adults in a drug-rehabilitation center.
I don’t know what life is like there. 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 Bogata to perform for vulnerable children. This will be CWB – USA’s 10th tour in as many years. In that time, Colombian displacement has risen, largely due to armed conflict over land-rights, and drug trafficking. Additionally, natural disasters such as flooding, El Niño, and earthquakes have added 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, a peace agreement was signed between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia’s biggest armed group, putting an end to a conflict that had lasted more than 50 years. This was a highly significant development and a prerequisite for achieving durable solutions for people displaced by the conflict. However, obstacles remain, and include victims’ compensation, land and property restitution, as well as 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 Cali Clown.
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 during the 2018 Puerto Rico tour. This was Robin Lara’s first tour.