Five characters (and their guests) in search of something.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The night before we left for our week in New York (visa renewal and seeing The Gates as our major excuses), we went with our friends David, Elizabeth and Leila to the Circo Franzatti/Rudy Brothers Circus. It's been I don't know how long since I've been to a "traditional" circus, and this one proved to be quite exceptional in it's starkness, it's frayed edges, it's sweetness. We all had a tremendous time, and following it I kept thinking how much I would have loved to take photos of the show, and of the participants. They didn't allow any photos to be taken during the show, and the only photo that I did take, of the ticket taker, I liked the look of. We were under the impression that the circus was only going to be in Oaxaca for a week, and since we were leaving for New York early the next day, I attempted to put the whole notion of photographing the circus and it's participants out of my mind. After all, I very rarely photograph human subjects, so, while intriguing, I could easily dismiss the idea.

The Maestro. He is the school teacher for the numerous kids in the circus, and the ticket seller...

When we returned from New York, we were all surprised to find out that in fact the circus was still here. Last Friday morning I went out to ask permission to return during the evening to take photos of the circus entertainers. As I spoke with Uri, the man who works with the lions, in the shade of one of the tractor-trailers we heard the male lion roaring. When I commented on the magnificence of the sound, he asked if I'd like to come over and see the animals. Duh. A half hour later I left the circus area having pet 2 nine month old tigers and been in very close proximity to lions, baboons, a zebra, camels and so on. I also had a very warm invitation to return that evening to take photos. I arrived at 5:30 with a box of cookies and a large bottle of mezcal as offerings.

That day was the 1st birthday of one of the children whose family works at the circus, so there was a festive group gathered out between the trailers. All were incredibly kind and generous. I was given carte blanche to wander and take photos. Mostly, I camped out at the back of the circus tent where the performers went in and out over the course of the evening. Between taking pictures I spoke with the various entertainers, who doubled as popcorn and cotton candy hawkers when they weren't performing. The circus is actually a merging of 2 circus families that make up Rudy Brothers Circus and Franzatti. It seems like everyone is someone's cousin or niece or grandchild--a bit hard to keep it all strait, particularly with language barriers in place...

Kilma and Abril are both 14 years old. Abril will turn 15 on April 5th (I have to assume she was named for the month she was born into) Quince aņos (15 years) is a big rite of passage for young women here in Mexico--it's seen as the passage into womanhood. She has extended an invitation to me to attend her quince aņos party which will be held in a town about 45 minutes from Oaxaca. I think they are also planning on doing a special circus that evening in celebration.

Kilma and Abril.

Abril at the popcorn stand.

The evening was a tremendous experience for me. The performers all worked so incredibly hard, and were so determined to give a good show to the spectators. And, they could not have been kinder to me--I felt like a rock star... They invited me to come and see the show with my family on Sunday, which I took them up on. Thom, the kids, Alta, plus our friend Elizabeth and daughter Leila all saw the early show on Sunday (11:30 am), and then were invited to join them for lunch. By the time we left around 3:30, Muriel and Leland were wanting to start their training to be in the circus. Leland is still talking about his friend Diego, and both kids are still going on about Pepinato the clown (who is VERY funny--clowns are a big part of Mexican culture, and tread a line between stand up comic and clown).



Fabian warming up. He's 15 years old. When he was 11 he fell and broke his femur and his hand. It took him a while to overcome his fear, but he now gives a beautiful and commanding performance.

Couple in their trailer. This is also where the classroom is. I am not sure what role the couple play in the functioning of the circus.

I went out Tuesday morning for a final goodbye, as they had given their last performance in Oaxaca on Monday night and were packing up to go to the next town. Areli, one of the previous generations of performers (who had to spend 2 years prone in a cast after a fall which broke her pelvis), took pictures of me with one of the two 9 month old tigers. They've had them since they were tiny babies, and they are incredibly social. Very incredible to be near.

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again in April. I hope to take some more photos then too. I'm still not entirely comfortable with taking photos of people, but this was a good start as they were all so incredibly inviting...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

great photos, TT. I'm cleaning out 13492 emails from my inbox and found the link to your blog again. Y'all are generating some rich content. Caution: Even circus tigers enjoy eating fingers.

Enjoy the sun!

KC in drearyland

March 24, 2005 8:43 PM


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