Shows Across Chiapas!

Back in Arriaga, we got dressed at the hotel, and processed with the accordion all the way to the Mercado, playing with people as we went. We were scheduled for a noon show in the open part of the Mercado building, but it seemed that not many people knew about it, so we had a fun time meandering in the rows of the Mercado, playing and telling people about the show. It was wicked hot outside in the noon sun, and out space was a bit small and hard to navigate, but once we started people gathered to watch. It was really interesting to play for an audience of mostly people who were there to work (selling things) or to get something. It was cool to see some tired hard working people cracking smiles. The show had its share of obstacles – mainly the scorching heat, and the occasional interruptions from a confused and frustrated fellow with a developmental disability. We were beyond sweaty and tired when it all wrapped up. Luckily Sinar, the organizers of these shows was at hand with aqua Frescas for us. We took a few photos and left the way we came in, in a playful parade.

At 5:00, we had a public show at Escuela Preparatoria Jorge H. Bedwell S.E. (Director Re David Morales Dominguez). By then the light and temperature were more gentle, and we played in a circle of benches on the basketball court. What a lovely crowd! We had a great mix of little-excited kids, interested teenagers from the school, supportive parents and sweet abuelas and abuelos. The show was one of my favorites. It was very intimate and fun and relaxed. Afterward, we did our conventional mining that included photos, acrobatics, balloon silliness, and lots of hugs and questions. Sara got the high school boys involved in basing tricks with the little kiddos, and I made quick friends with a bright, sweet girl who wanted to hold my hand and learn all of our “tricks.”

That night we were invited to someone’s new restaurant, fully decked out with color changing LEDS and loud music, and had an evening meal together. I think we were all pretty exhausted by that time. There was a little boy there with HUGE eyes who had been at both of our shows that day, and he was such a clown! He had all the cute moves, and he knew it. We played with a balloon a bit, and someone noticed him saying “Opa!” which he picked up from Sara in the show.

We left Arriaga at 8 to get to our 11 am school show in Tuxtla. The school we went to turned out to be a small, lovely school for special needs kids called Centro De Atencion Multiple (Director Julia Isabel Sanchez-Lopez). As we got ready we made a plan to be extra careful and gentle because we weren’t sure how the kids would react to loud sounds, fast movements, being approached, etc. However, they were super into it right from the start, and we had a super fun show with many moments of connection. There were about 20-30 kids there, plus another ten adults. The teachers at the school were lovely people – very gentle with the kids. At the beginning of the show, I cleaned one kid’s shoes, and immediately after we finished, many of them remembered the moment and wanted me to clean theirs too. One little boy got excited about cleaning MY shoes, which was pretty precious. There was much hugging and taking photos and hanging out. We even had a little bit of dancing to Sara’s accordion music (another very popular item to explore). Some kids were asking “where is the piñata?” they were all very open and curious and full of excitement. It was a pretty amazing time.

We had a morning school show in a community called Molino Los Arcos on the outskirts of San Cristobal. The history of the place is quite fascinating – there was a man (Italian, I think) who owned a massive piece of property with a big house on it, but he was never around. His neighbors were people who were struggling and in great need of resources. Eventually, after years of watching the land go unused, the people took over and occupied his property, parceling out the land for small houses and a school. For many years the big fancy house was left untouched because they people already had what they needed – small humble lots to build their homes – but it was recently demolished.

The school we visited (Escuela Primaria Ignacio Manuel Altamirano) was down in the valley. We were greeted by two teachers from Spain and Italy respectively, who were also there with volunteer/exchange organization. The kids were already excited to meet and greet us before we set up. Mooky and Sara and I heard Rudi’s whistle (our signal to enter) when we were all halfway changed, and we panicked a tiny bit – only had one eyebrow drawn on. Luckily, he stalled a bit, and when we were ready, we were able to have a lovely little traverse down the hill to the circle of kiddos (Probably around 200?). I spotted one one kiddo wearing a big foam clown nose (given to him by Rudi during one of the opening numbers) that dominated his sweet little face.
After the show, the kids were super eager to hang out. This school seemed to have a bit more of the classical gender division than I had noticed other places – the boys wanted to run and climb and yell, and the girls wanted hugs and snuggles and to ask questions. One little girl, in particular, stayed by my side, touching me the whole time we spent with the kids after the show (which was considerably longer than at most of our shows). Sara led some acro, and this group was quite into it. She and I based some brave, ambitious little ones in two highs. They were very fearless! I had a bunch of balloons and inspired by a story Mooky had told me about wanting to try other ways of getting kids to calmly share things instead of fighting over/stealing them, so I tried a little experiment with my balloons. I got all the kids to make one big circle, and pass the balloons down the line until almost everyone had one. I had run out, but I told them to share with each other, and it seemed to work out well! So much better than the usual swarming and grabbing that happens.

Our last day of shows! Holy cow, it all went by so fast. Our morning show was at the Primary school in San Felipe (Director Alejandro Ruiz Hernandez – maybe 350 kids at the show?). The kids were a wild and lively bunch. During the show they were extremely vocal, reacting in huge ways to the jokes and gags, and of course demanding “Mas Alto!” during the juggling sequence. We were all rocking it, no doubt from the energy of the kids! At the end of the show when we went to make our customary exit – drifting away waving from beneath a dripping umbrella, the kids amassed around us and followed us all the way to the “backstage” room. It was like being floated on a sea of little ones! After our bows, we, unfortunately, had to pack up quick to get to our next and final show. I had been feeling a little sick all day, but during the shows, of course, I was filled with adrenaline, and it was okay.
Our last show was at Escuela Primaria Del Estado Prudencio Moscoso Pastrana, on the mountain where Rudi lives. It was the same place we went for our run through the rehearsal before our very first show, so it was fitting to end the tour here. There were some older kids from Escuela Pequino Sol (where we had our first show) visiting to give presentations on environmentalism to the younger kids. Very cool! Our show was a little rocky, but the crowd was lovely. And just like that, it was over! I passed out some balloons, playing a game that it was a “secret” and sneaking them into hands and pockets. Sara based some acro, and then they all got on the collective buses to go home, and we got in the car to do the same!

We had a quiet little lovely ceremony/debrief that evening – Rudi wrote us a beautiful poem, and Sara played the accordion, and we all drank tea. We talked about the work, we talked about aspects of our group dynamic that were hard, and aspects that worked well. My take away has just been feeling so grateful and filled up by this work. It was an incredible experience – the giving that doesn’t feel one-sided because the appreciation and reactions you get back are so fulfilling. I wish I could do it all over again! Super grateful to Rudi for being our host, leader, and director, and of course to Mooky and Sara for being lovely to work with and inspiring to watch. They gave it their all every time! We all had so much support and generosity along the way from friends and strangers alike in Chiapas, it was incredible. Definitely renewed my faith in people! What a beautiful trip.

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