Our work is an invitation to laugh together—it’s a reprieve from human solitude. In many moments, everything is so confusing! But when we laugh together, I don’t see borders. I don’t see the worst in people. I feel poetry, joy and hope. I feel affection.
Aline Moreno, CWB-USA performing artist and founder of Palhaços Sem Fronteiras,
In September, 2017, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Mexican state of Puebla. Over 300 people were killed, and buildings were reduced to rubble throughout Puebla and Mexico City. This was the strongest earthquake to hit the country since 1985, though a smaller, but still deadly, earthquake struck southern Mexico only weeks earlier.
CWB’s local project partner Llaven Nü is a nomadic, intercultural clown festival. “Llaven nü” means “laughing together,” in a variant of the Mazatec indigenous language. Llaven Nü is often on the road, spreading laughter as a human right and a part of cultural heritage. The organization works to generate a culture of peace by sharing clowning as an agent of transformation.
CWB – USA has a longstanding relationship with the people of Mexico, especially in the southern Free and Sovereign State of Chiapas. After the 2017 earthquake, CWB – USA founder Moshe Cohen traveled to Mexico City as part of the Brigades de Risa, an informal collaboration with 5th Encuentro Internacional de Clown, and a group of Mexican performers.
In May 2018, CWB – USA returned to Mexico, offering performances and workshops for populations most affected by last year’s devastating earthquakes. CWB – USA also performed for populations living in migrant homes and traveling to the US–Mexico border. In total, there were 15 performances and two workshops, reaching a total of 4,048 people.
As always, CWB – USA’s primary concern is to construct performances and activities appropriate for children living in crisis. For this project tour, CWB collaborated with Palhaços Sem Fronteiras (Brazil) and Llaven Nü (Mexico). The artist caravan was comprised of five artists, representing Mexico, Brazil and the United States. The tour traveled to communities in the State of Morelos, Mexico City, and the State of Oaxaca.
Many communities were living in substandard, temporary or incomplete housing, even 10 months after the earthquake. The clowns were told that money for housing was diverted away from earthquake victims. Though earthquake relief was the primary focus of the tour, it’s impossible to be in Mexico and ignore the reality of human migration. The clowns worked with people who are walking toward the U.S.–Mexico border, in search of peace and a stable life. The struggles of migrant people and the ongoing internal displacement of earthquake victims contributes to a culture of distrust, which the clowns addressed in their performances.
CWB tours almost always include informal pre- and post-performance parades. This is a low-tech way to publicize the event. This tour included pasacalles (parades), allowing more time to interact with the community, listen to stories and share activities.
We see how laughter heals, how it releases the anger and sadness we hold in our hearts. If we let it, laughter can bring us together in times of war, devastation, trauma, and tragedy. If we feel sad, why not allow those feelings to come and go like the wind? Whatever we feel, laughter will take us out of our pain and remind us to open our hearts again. Divisiveness, hate, and all the borders and walls in the world can fall when we’re laughing together.