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I love the rag-tag, gritty, miserable looking circuses that travel the megalopolises and small towns and villages of Latin America. It’s been a while since we’ve seen one, but there’s one just down the street now. It’s called Circo Azteca. This was not Cirque du Soleil; in fact, it was the poorest circus I’ve ever seen, but entertaining nonetheless. My last few experiences in Latin American Circuses were better. I saw the Hermanos Gasca circus in Nicaragua, and became a participant when the Gaucho from Argentina decided I’d be the perfect candidate to demonstrate his skill with bolas, a traditional weapon consisting of two rock hard balls attached to the end of a leather strip, which are spun around at high speed. These he used to knock a cigarette out of my mouth, as they swung past my face within a hair’s breath of my nose.
We bought our tickets early, $2 each for front row seats. I guess you could equate the quality of the circus with the price of the tickets, though in my mind, this little flea circus “Circo Azteca” was just about as entertaining as the multi-media, overwhelm-your-senses Barnum & Bailey’s productions they do nowadays. They just didn’t have big screens, didn’t hold it in a major sports arena, and didn’t have massive lights, noise, and colors going on for $85 or more. They also held it in a vacant lot near the center of town. Next to the small sawmill on the lot they were growing some tomatoes among construction debris and trash-I found this little urban patch rather enterprising.
Since there is not a lot of internet access in private households (and not a lot of regulation) the traditional advertising vehicle was parked just out front, with loudspeaker securely attached to the roof. There are no police to stop you from blaring whatever message you’d like to from loudspeakers attached to your car, so this is a pretty frequent means of advertising throughout Ecuador.
Next to the trailer and parking area was the ticket window.
The floor was the grass of the vacant lot, and the seats were cheap patio chairs made of plastic like the kind you can pick up at your local Wal-Mart. The tent was full of holes and missing stitching in many places.
When we got inside just past the guy collecting our tickets, another man stopped us and told us we’d be undercharged and we needed to pay another $2. Wonderful customer service. We didn’t have much choice but to pay up; there wasn’t a manager or anyone to complain to. The whole circus might have had 15 employees in total.
There were only three main acts of any kind of major skill. These included a man who knotted himself up and down a giant sheet hanging from the circus tent, a girl who did all kinds of things with hula hoops, and a woman who balanced barbie dolls, umbrellas, and other things on her chin.
The whole show was 2 full hours, even though it started a half hour late. The circus clowns joked about planning to move on to Bogota, Colombia for their next show, but not having enough money to do so just yet. I can believe it.