Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Peru: clowns emerge after pandemic, fight against inflation

LIMA ( Associated Press) — The clowns of the most important union in Peru walked the streets of the old historic center of Lima on Wednesday celebrating their local day and even carrying an urn with the ashes of a colleague who died during the COVID-19 pandemic, which killed more than 213,000 in the South American country.

With their red noses, painted faces, extravagant wigs and big shoes that barely allowed them to walk, the clowns roamed the streets of a city of 10 million inhabitants where hardly anyone smiles or greets each other in the streets, shaking hands with surprised passers-by.

“The pandemic hit clowns hard, many of us work in shows inside the houses and with the bans we are left with nothing,” said Ronald Puchuri, the union’s president. Seriously, the clown said that countless numbers fell ill with the virus and some died.

Lener Díaz, along with his colleagues from the eastern part of the capital, carried an urn with the ashes of the clown Jorge Contreras, called “Copetín”, who died on an afternoon in May 2020, when the Peruvian capital was experiencing a confinement that lasted more than 100 days to prevent the spread of the virus.

Copetín died of aggravated pancreatic cancer because the hospitals could not cope with treating patients with other diseases. “Today we want to break the mourning, we leave it alone and we return to our colored suits,” said Díaz. “Breaking mourning” means among Peruvians of Andean origin to end the stage of mourning and return to joy, explained the clown along with his colleagues.

The troupe included several dressed as characters from the Pixar animation studio’s movie universe, including Buzz Lightyear, the antagonist of Woody the cowboy from “Toy Story.” In the midst of the characters from Hollywood movies, a clown dressed as a dancer of the Danza de las Tijeras contrasted, an acrobatic dance that combines indigenous and Catholic syncretism practiced for centuries in the Andes of Peru, where Quechua is spoken.

That man was Renato Pichihua, 52 years old and father of five, who overcame COVID after more than a month of suffering. Pichihua said that he wore the Scissors Dance clothing because his family came from Ayacucho, a region where the dance has been popular for hundreds of years.

“The coronavirus almost killed me and I didn’t have a job,” said the man, explaining that during the pandemic, clown performances at children’s parties were reduced to almost zero. When he recovered from the illness he started selling fruits and vegetables in the markets.

“Now we have animated parties again, but everything has begun to rise in price and silver (money) is no longer enough,” said Pichihua, who has been a clown for decades. Like many Peruvians, the clowns have also been affected by inflation, which in March reached the highest figure in Peru in 26 years.

The celebration of the day of the clown is not recognized in Peru, a country where various dates have even been made official by presidential decrees to commemorate the most famous meals and drinks among locals.

Without recognition, the clowns appropriated May 25 as the date to celebrate their day in honor of the legendary local clown José Alvarez, called “Tony Perejil”, who died on this day in 1987 and was laid to rest in his patched-up tent in a poor neighborhood. of Lima, when Peru was sinking in the midst of an economic crisis and an internal war between the security forces and the Shining Path.

The exact number of clowns in the country is not known, but several of them calculate that they exceed half a thousand. “The only thing left for us, now that we have life, is to keep working,” Pichihua said.


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