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Ricardo’s Redirect: Taking a U-Turn for Clown Show Success in Guatemala
Have you ever wondered what it takes to redirect a clown show tour on the fly?
Picture this: Suitcases were packed, the route meticulously planned, and the artists were ready to embark on a laughter-filled journey. But just as the stage was set, Guatemala City erupted in flames amid pro-democracy protests.
The tour to Guatemala, scheduled for October 10th, 2023, seemed abruptly canceled.
Enter Ricardo Bamaca, our fearless Tour Leader from Guatemala. He evaluated the security situation, provided an alternative route, and selected an all-Guatemalan cast.
Join us as we tell a tale of love and laughter rising against the odds — and just when it was needed most.
Dedication to Laughter Looks Like This…
Thousands of protesters, mostly indigenous people, had gathered in Guatemala City beginning October 2 to bring attention to threats against election integrity.
As the situation intensified a week before the tour was to begin, CWB’s Naomi Shafer reached out to our tour partner ACNUR (La Oficina del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados, or, in English: the United Nations Refugee Agency) and our Tour Leader Ricardo Bamaca to talk about security.
Just 24 hours before international artists were scheduled to fly out, ACNUR canceled all in-person programs for audience safety. International artists’ participation in public gatherings would have increased risks to audiences.
Two days later, Naomi and Ricardo evaluated the possibility of an all-Guatemalan team.
Could Clowns Without Borders (CWB) still navigate a path to laughter for migrant families in Guatemala?
A Third Way to Joy
Ricardo’s dedication and swift communication with community leaders across Guatemala became the linchpin that brought laughter to life. He assessed the security risks and navigated challenges.
Ricardo gathered local talents Ronald Peralto (AKA Huesos), Juanita Domíngues (AKA Juanchita), and the returning artist Juan Pablo Flores (AKA Epi). He also charted a route for the team that included Indigenous communities outside the capital and areas along the Mexico-Guatemala border where migrants wait to cross into Mexico.
If you are interested to learn more about the conditions that lead to migration from Guatemala, check out last year’s tour post.
Clown Show Magic: Rolling From Day 1…
Over the course of 8 days, the CWB team performed 10 shows and led one workshop, touching the lives of 1042 people, mostly women and children.
However, these numbers only tickle the funny bone of the true impact of the shows.
After each clown show, the team spent time with children and adults from the audience. Expressions of gratitude were mixed with stories of displacement from as far away as Venezuela and as close as the Guatemalan highlands.
What Crowds in Chinautla Shared
The first show of the tour took place outside of Guatemala City in a city called Chinautla.
Chinautla is a densely populated community, largely of Maya Poqoman origin. Pottery and clay crafts are the major source of income for many. Yet, this livelihood is threatened because companies are extracting clay from the riverbanks on a large scale, also leading to environmental health and infrastructure safety issues.
The first performance of the first day was in a field close to a craft market. The audience was mostly children, but there were also adult women and men.
“None of this has happened here in Chinautla. These children suffer so much violence that laughter is a right denied to them. Today, they managed to exercise it. Thank you very much.”
Jorge, a 40-year-old man
Diego, 8 years old, said, “Teach me how to do magic, I would like to be a clown like you and make people laugh.” He soon got his chance: During the show, Diego got on stage and made a handkerchief disappear. The crowd gave him a big applause and his face glowed! CWB Artists introduced him as “The Magician Diego.”
After the show, a man told Epi, “I’m not a child anymore, but today I danced and laughed like when I was 5 years old. Thank you. I needed it a lot.”
“Thank you for coming. I think most of the children had not had an experience like this. Thank you from the heart.“
Doña Martha, a mother of two children
Mam Children Experienced Clown Show Magic
The next day, Team Guatemala visited a rural community with many Mam people, a subgroup of the Mayan Nation from the northwest highlands of Guatemala.
Josué, 8 years old, said, “I’ve never seen that magic thing you did. I really liked it. I had only seen it on TV.”
María, 7 years old, said, “I really liked the clown Juanchita. It’s very cool to see how she does all the juggling tricks. I want to be like her when I grow up, to be a talented woman that everyone admires.”
At a show inside La Casa del Migrante, participants were mostly young migrant families, including complete families, heading to the United States.
The community leader who organized the presentations told the artists that most children suffer from abandonment by their parents. He said that the show feels like care, appreciation, and the gift of space to laugh, feel joy, and be a child. He said, “It’s an opportunity to heal emotional wounds.”
“Are you coming tomorrow? I really liked the show. I didn’t want it to end. It’s been a long time since I felt this happy.”
Jimena, 10 years old
CWB artists Juanchita, Epi and Huesos connected with children and families during moments of migration, hardship, and political uncertainty.
The response? Overwhelming gratitude for celebrating the magic of play and childhood.
We are so grateful for Ricardo’s flexibility and breadth of grassroots connections. And we’re grateful for CWB artists Epi, Juanchita, and Huesos who stepped up on short notice to create an unforgettable tour!