Travels with Mexico's Malabaristas

A chance encounter with a band of travelling street performers, or malabaristas, leads Catriona Rainsford on a two year, hand – to – mouth adventure across Mexico. As she learns to survive off a few circus skills and the kindness of strangers, she discovers that malabaristas are more than entertainers: their impromptu, freewheeling shows are a rejection of the corruption and violence consuming the country.
“As night fell, the rain eased off. By the time we got down and set up camp on the edge of the pools the sky had cleared enough for tiny stars to start struggling through the clouds. Fireflies flashed like spells among the trees. Before long Sandra had a small fire going, coaxing a sulky lick of flame out of the damp wood and poking with a stick at a pot of coagulating rice. Up to his neck in the steaming water and swigging from a plastic bottle of Flor de Cana, Trico gazed around him in beaming satisfaction.

“Ay, que rico” he announced to no one in particular, leaning back to survey the sweep of star – speckled sky framed between the walls of the canyon. “No tenemos ni un peso, pero somos milionarios”. We don’t have a single peso, but we are millionaires. It was that sentence that made me go with them.

“Alone, man, six months alone. In one week you start to go crazy, y’know? You start seeing faces in cacti and rock formations. In two weeks the faces become your friends; you start talk to them, start to talk to yourself. In one month every leaf and pebble and wisp of cloud has its own personality. Eventually, you forget your own name, where you came from, where you are and why you came there in the first place. Forget that anything exists outside the desert. You lose yourself completely, and only when you lose yourself completely do you realize who you really are. Who we all are”

Catriona Rainsford
Bradt Travel Guides Ltd

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David Alfaro Siqueiros_1896 - 1974_Mexican_Ethnography_1939_Enamel on composition board_MoMA