On the first full weekend without Matthias we decided to hit the travelling circus that was in town. George and Ines reminded us to keep our expectations low, which was probably a good game plan. With low expectations we could only be pleasantly surprised, right?
Over the last week I had been asking our taxi drivers if they knew when the shows were and how much they cost. We got a bunch of different answers, but many of them said there was a car driving around town advertising the circus and they were selling discounted General Admission tickets for 20 pesos instead of the regular 50 pesos. We’d been keeping an eye out for one of those cars. We saw one early on – it was driving through town with a huge speaker and a megaphone on the top blaring advertisements and trailing 3 or 4 cages behind with the poor animals from the show. Unfortunately we were never able to actually encounter one when we were in a position to pick up a few tickets. I mentioned this to George and his response was “Nah, those taxi drivers, they’re all lying to you.” Somehow I didn’t think there was a conspiracy amongst the taxistas to give the gringos in town bum information on the discounted circus tickets, but I just nodded and tried to change topics. If I’ve heard the same story from at least 2 or 3 different taxi drivers, well, I’m going to start to believe there is something to it. Despite not having any discounted tickets, we went anyway.
The opening number couldn’t have been worse. I came with low expectations and I was already worried I had already set them too high. The next number was a tribute to “El Rey de Pop.” Yep, a tribute to Michael Jackson. These Mexican dancers come out in black suits and spats and were pelvic thrusting and leg wiggling to songs from the Thriller Album. They are horrible dancers and the worst is that they don’t even look like they are enjoying themselves. Matthias’ MJ impression has more soul than any of these guys. Pretty soon clowns start walking through the audience trying to sell stuff and later those same clowns end up in the show performing. The kids are getting super annoying because they want 15 of everything each clown is trying to sell. To top it off we are under a tent on a dirt floor and it is sweltering and it stinks to high hell.
Next came the first animal routine: a camel, a dromedary and 2 lamas. They walk around in circles, do some twirls and walk around in more circles. It all kind of makes me sad, but on the other hand I’m a little happy that there aren’t more animals. Mexican’s aren’t known for being animal lovers, and the thought of their lives (walking in circles for 2-3 performances a day, being driven through town in cages behind a blaring speaker) seems like a pretty lame existence. After the animals left they brought out a big tarp, unfolded it (which of course stirred up a smelly dust cloud inside the tent). This was one of many gritty transitions with precarious safety precautions (at best) but what they were doing was making way for the acrobats.
This is when the circus took a turn for the better. These guys were seriously lacking on the dirt dance floor but what became evident is their passion for the acrobatics. They were smiling, engaging and a lot of fun to watch. Seven very buff, chest-hairless Mexican men swung from ropes, hung upside down, twirled around in their air, climbed up poles, juggled, were interacting with the audience and you could really get a feeling of the camaraderie and fun they must have in this circus life together.
At one point in the show they called a few kids down to the ring to participate (William and Julian included) while they were preparing for the next act. And at intermission it got a little weird when everyone in the circus (except us) went down to the ring, paid the circus performers a bit of money so they could hoist their loved ones on top of the elephant, hand a clown their phone, and have their picture taken with babies, siblings and grandparents waving their glow sticks and other trinkets while sitting on the elephant. This was clearly the longest segment of the circus and definitely a money-maker.
After intermission there were a few more acrobatic numbers and then it was time for the finale – the tigers!!! The tigers file into the ring one-by-one to the tune of Enter Sandman by Metallica. Their trainer waltzes in in a gold lame sequin-studded, luche libre-esque top with black leather pants. This is his moment to shine. You can clearly see he feels superior to his shit-shoveling colleague who rakes up all the poop after the animals perform. There were 9 tigers and 7 of them were white tigers. Julian was literally on the edge of his seat for the tigers. They sound crew hit play on the A-Team theme and the tigers started their number. They sat on stools, they growled, they all laid down in a line next to one another and eventually jumped through rings of fire. The cage they erected inside the ring seemed like a bit of an afterthought, since all that was needed was for a tiger to take a wrong right or a wrong left at the exit and he’d be lose in the stands, but it all went off without a hitch. All in all it was an enjoyable afternoon and I’m happy we went, but a 3-ring Barnum and Bailey Circus it ain’t.