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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Our Unplanned Stop under the Mexican Circus Big Top

by Laura Comstock

Last Sunday, late in the morning, my husband, Dave, and I were driving into San Felipe from the north. Soon after passing Los Arcos, there it was, down a dusty side street on the left - A circus tent! Unable to resist, we made a quick turn and soon found ourselves parked in front of the big top. The large sign on the trailer in front said Circo Rex Y Su Anaconda de Venezuela, but no people seemed to be up and about yet. Luckily, a handsome young couple came strolling down the street just then. The husband was a clown with the circus. He graciously showed us into the big top, explained the various prices for seats, and knocked on another trailer to let us purchase tickets right away, so we wouldn't have to stand in line that evening. We decided to splurge on ringside seats for 60 pesos each.

The show started with a beautiful young woman on the trapeze. Next, a handsome young man in a leopard skin loincloth was introduced as Tarzan. He also did some beautiful aerial tricks using cloth streamers instead of the trapeze, including taking a señorita from the audience for a spin through the air. Neither of the two aerialists, which looked like brother and sister, had a net beneath them. Tarzan also brought out various trained animals to do tricks, including a baboon, bear, camel, buffalo, long horn steer, pony, and a tiger; alas, no lion, despite the articles title.

Sitting ringside gave us a close-up of the animals, including the tiger, as close as six feet away from us - unrestrained! Of course, between the other acts, there were clowns. Their antics, including the classic bucket of water/confetti, had all the children screaming with laughter.
At the intermission, there were pony rides around the ring for the ninos for 5 pesos, snacks, and toys for sale. The second half of the show had more trained animals and a balancing act with a man performing handstands that ascended higher and higher, and, of course, more clowns. The most unusual act was a brave man that crouched underwater in a barrel coated with fuel and set afire while holding his breath. It must have been several tense minutes until the fire burned off and he emerged, but it felt much longer.

Finally, the grand finale, when the giant albino anaconda was brought out carried by six men. The children were invited to the edge of the ring to see and touch the huge snake as it was carried around.

Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey, to Cirque de Soliel, they’re all incredible, awe-inspiring shows. However, if you want an intimate, interactive experience with no nets or barriers, join the families of San Felipe at the next small traveling circus that swings through town. We got as much enjoyment at seeing the local kids having so much fun as we did seeing the show, and so will you.