anuary 8th and 9th
Clowns Without Borders Borders visited two isolated and very poor coffee Fincas. Lots of hours bouncing around in the back of a jeep.
January 8th we went to Finca La Candelaria above the pueblo of Pochuta. We were down in the hot lowlands at the beginning ot the hills. About 250 people packed around a concrete slab. They laughed like hyenas and we played for almost two hours, which made us quite proud since we put this show together in a few days after not even knowing each other before hand. The people were as friendly as could be and some of the child volunteers were true clowns.
January 9th we repeated this experience at La Florida Finca near the town of La Columba in a fold of incredibly steep hills covered with coffee plantations and scrub jungle. About 200 people laughing themselves silly at this show.
Both of these fincas are large coffee plantations that originally belonged to single owners. When the owners abandoned them as unprofitable the workers, about 100 dirt poor indigenous families at each one, claimed and squatted the land. After some years of negotiation with banks they now own the land and work it cooperatively. But they have to pay the banks off.
At La Candeleria all the money from each years coffee crop is dedicated to paying off the land which they think they can do in 7 years. Thus, besides working their own land all the families need to go work at nearby plantations to earn money to live on. Unfortunately they lost much of this year´s crop to the hurricane´s mud flood.
At La Florida, the crowd was smaller because the day of the show most of the men trucked off to a town to support other poor workers, who apparently were threatened with getting their homes repossessed because of debt. Their coffee hillsides are badly grown over and decimated. For their first year of squatting they had almost no housing at all and still they are very crowded. In the old house that belonged to the orginal German owners, 12 families are packed in. They have a lumber saw and a corn grinder powered by a water mill.
The steep hills we drive through are sprinkled with hundreds of landslide scratches of exposed dirt, many of them thousands of feet long. There are many washouts in the road, most of them reasonably repaired three months after the hurricane.
We have been trying to do a show in the Central Park of our host city of Quetzaltenango. On January 6th we had started a show on the central square but the police came to stop us. The crowd booed and heckled the police but we calmed them down and moved to a filthy stage near the market. We had a wonderful show there for about 250 people, mostly poor market children plus some families and a sprinkling of tourists.
We knew we could get a huge crowd in the Central park so on January 10th we petitioned City Hall, got a letter typed up explaining Clowns Without Borders, signed by three officials and still were refused in the end. The Chief of Police felt that we had been upsetting his authority in our first show in some way and swore at us rudely. The mayor, the only person who could overrule him, never showed up. So instead we went to a different park to play. We had a fantastic show there for about 500 people including perhaps 100 homeless street children and shoeshine boys.