About halfway into our tour, we visited fishing villages near the coast. We did two shows in small fishing villages outside of Arriaga, organized by Sinar Corzo, an activist with the citizen committee for the defense of human rights – El Coloso De Piedra (the column of stone).
The first show was at a tiny school in El Arenal, a community of 500 or so people. We were told that the meandering dirt road we took to get there from Arriaga was just recently created by the people of El Arenal as a more direct route to get goods to and from town. When we arrived, the entire school of 30 kids was outside playing on the basketball court. We set up in the dirt in front of the court for maximum shade, because it was a very hot day. The kids set up their chairs and waited for us to get changed (in one of the two classrooms). The performance was for the whole community, and soon some adults showed up to watch as well. The men all stood together on the side, while the women gathered behind the chairs where the kids sat. Everyone was a little shy before and during the show, but afterward, the kids were really hungry for more.
One of our artists, Sara, led some great acro tricks with kid volunteers, and Mooky played with the men a bit, getting them to laugh and loosen up. I brought out my balloons and soon was mobbed by little, excited hands grabbing and pulling at my clothes until they were all gone.
We were invited to lunch at a house nearby, where they had prepared a lovely meal of chicken soup for us. I learned a bit about the area, and some problems they face, like the illegal overfishing of shrimp which cuts short the reproduction cycle of the shrimp and makes the supply less and less each year. Many people go to work seasonally for 5 months at a time on mango plantations in Oaxaca, or even in the US.
Next, we drove to La Linea (around 2,800 people), another fishing town. We got out of the car and right away were greeted by a curious group of young girls. They were very interested in where we came from and what we were doing. I found an armadillo shell, and we discussed that for a bit. Super sweet intelligent, respectful kids! Sinar told us that they had been asking every day, “When are the clowns going to be here!?!!”
A woman named Chavelita welcomed us with mangos, and let us use her house to change into our gear. I later learned that she was an advocate for the whole community, by doing things like negotiating the use of chairs for our show. The people really have to push hard against the authority figures in their towns to gain the use of basic resources – I learned that only recently did la linea get a Health clinic, after a lot of pressure and petitioning from El Coloso De Piedra, and that they were still working on getting access to the library for the kids.
The show was a huge success – we played on a basketball court to around 200 or 300 people. The kids sat in front and we’re absolutely enthralled. Afterward, it dissolved into a big party of sorts, with us taking photos, doing acro, playing music, etc. A woman asked me if I was a woman or a man, and also about the genders of Mooky and Sara. She couldn’t believe that we were all women. It was not the first time I had been asked – people are not used to women doing things like this. I think it was especially inspiring for the little girls in the town to see girls doing tricks and being funny in a big way. As Alejandro put it, “they are a new generation of women.”
I later learned that some of the authority figures in the town who had been in conflict with the people had come to our show and that everyone laughing together had helped to reconcile their differences a bit. What a huge honor! Alejandro said that the people had told him they had never seen anything like it, that it was a completely different kind of humor than the commercial kind they had been exposed to on TV, and that they had previously only known two types of clowns: horror clowns in the media, or party clowns selling things on the street.
We found ourselves back at Chavelita’s house for an amazing meal of fresh fish and crab. The meal had been organized and prepared by the community as a way to reciprocate. We had a lovely time eating and talking, and even got a special treat – a local boy who we had met before the show came over and sang us some songs! He had a quite a strong and beautiful voice, and even some dance moves to top it off.
When it was time to leave, a group of kids saw us off, asking when we would be back. I didn’t know what I could tell them, and I didn’t want to leave.