Clowns Without Borders USA is now performing in Guatemala. This trip was launched with the idea of bringing smiles to children and adults in the communities most effected by torrential rains and mudslides caused by Hurricane Stan in October, 2005. Over 1000 people were killed in Guatemala, mostly by tremendous mudslides that drowned houses and whole villages. Rebuilding and replanting are still very much in progress in these poor indigenous villages and many people are still on emergency food aid in temporary housing.
Three clowns make up the team, David Lichtenstein, an experienced CWB performer from Portland, Oregon and two performers new to CWB, Sayda Trujillo and Shea Freedom Howler. Sayda is a Guatemalan-American; we used her Grandmother´s house in the country, where Sayda went to grade school, as a place to rehearse our show for two days. Shea had never been out of the USA before.
Our principle local organizer is Pieter Van Nestelrooy who runs CAPAZ, an organization that teaches animal husbandry and encourages the estabishment of cooperative farms in indigenous communities. We are also supported by Manos Campesinos, who organize small coffee farmers to get fairer prices for their coffee.
Our show yesterday was in the aldea of Panabaj, in Santiago de Atitlan. There a giant mudslide originating 2000 feet higher on the mountain buried much of the village at 4:00 AM in the morning, killing 80 people, most of whom are still buried under the mudflow. Crowded temporary housing has been set up on top of the mudflow. We performed on top of the mudflow at the edge of the housing. There were over 300 children, plus many parents. The show was made difficult by strong gusting winds that swirled the volcanic ash of the flow all over us, but the children loved it. One woman told us that it was the first time she had seen the children laughing like that for months. It was an extraordinary experience.
We were also able to visit (and bring supplies for) a farm run cooperatively by 70 families of the village. They have already heroically dug all the most essential parts of the farm out from under more than one meter of mudflow by hand. Unfortunately it is not possible to grow anything in the volcanic sand and ash of the flow.
We are performing in Guatemala everyday from January 5 to January 18. We have a schedule targeting the communities most effected by the hurricane, all of whom are difficult to reach. We also our performing for a few schools and orphanages in poor communities closer to our base in Quetzaltenango which should allow us to get in 2 shows on a few days.