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Stuff Mexicans Like #14: Los Payasos

2 Jun
In Mexico, clowns are not just birthday party entertainment or circus acts. They are an integral part of what I like to call, the zócalo mentality (pronounced SO- cah- loh. Remember the Z always says SSSSSS in Spanish). A zócalo culture/mentality places great value on outdoor fellowship, mass celebration, and community participation. The original Zócalo is the town square in la Ciudad de México, where initially the Aztecs gathered when it was the known as the great city of Tenochtitlan. Today it is often used to describe a town square with parks, benches, trees, flora, kiosks, statues, and central iglesias. It is a Latino town’s living room, as later recreated by American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, a place in the middle of a structure where all inhabitants spill into (out of bedrooms or elsewhere). Zócalo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z%C3%B3calo Clowns perform in town squares, even here in San Miguel de Allende in el jardín, on weekends and días festivas for adoring audiences ranging from 6 months to 96 years of age.
TRADICIÓN
There have been famous clowns in Mexico for decades that most Mexicans (age 20 and up) can recite quickly for you off the top of their heads:
* Nifu & Nifa
* Bozo (I asked my Mexican friend & his family if they were sure this wasn’t an American clown, and they assured me he was a full-blooded, chile-eating Mexican.)
 
 
* Cepillín
 
LOS PAYASOS de SAN MIGUEL de ALLENDE
Here in San Miguel de Allende, clowns also receive the spotlight every weekend in el jardín (our village’s zocalo or town square). Our pueblos’s most famous, revered payaso is Don Bombonini. He is a unique combination of wit, sarcasm, physical comedy, adult-humor, and amazing tricks involving balloons and objects thrown in the air. He prefers to refer to himself as “Brahd Peet” and “Don Sexi.” Seen below, he is entertaining an audience of all ages in the jardín with one of his usual sensual poses. 🙂
* Don Bombonini
Don Bombonini has performed at at least 3 San Miguel 3 year-old birthday parties I have attended and I must confess, I am a huge fan. He is more like a stand-up comedian than anything else. Don B lives in la San Rafa (that’s “Colonia San Rafael” for outsiders), and his family generally comes along to his shows: children assisting and wife painting faces. I recommend you try to catch a show in the jardín if you haven’t already on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (beginning around 4-6pm). His audience participation is a crack-up.
¿POR QUÉ PAYASOS?
I once read a short story wherein clowns were mentioned with disdain as the most pathetic creatures on the planet. The character said tears welled up in her eyes each time she saw one because they are the definition of trying-too-hard desperation. What is the deal anyway? The bright, shocking make-up with either an exaggerrated maniacal smile or a depressed weeping frown and the jarring flash of outrageous hair… what’s that about? This is what makes us laugh? Why?
Imagen 3: Payasos espantosos                                 
Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
Do we need a mask in order to give ourselves permission to be real? Is alcohol a mask? Anger? A round red nose and size 42 shoes? Is this the honesty serum we crave? Or is it just that life is so pinche triste that we have to laugh to keep from crying? 
Is the Mexican obsession with payasos  saying yet another something about the conquistador vs the conquistado syndrome (the conquerers vs. the conquered syndrome)? Chinga or be chingado? (Fuck others over or be fucked over yourself.) No sé. You be the judge.

Stuff Mexicans Like #4: La Television

18 May
Watching television is the #1 past-time for Mexicans, according to the super unscientific Garrison Survey of 2004- 2012. In fact, if you ever get out to the campos and ranchos where extreme poverty abounds (like, for example, say… my neighborhood), you may find communities with corrugated plastic roofs and concrete slabs for floors. There will be no refrigerator, no stove, and rudimentary plumbing. Children may be sleeping on a bean-filled mattress on the floor. But you better believe that every family has a television set! I’ve seen tin foil antennas, extension cords creeping out front windows to be rigged directly to the power lines, but it is essential in Mexican culture that every citizen be connected to every other Mexican via the medium of tv. Try to find a true Mexican restaurant or taco stand or tiendita or Mexican home that does not have a television on and blaring at full volume at all times. You’d be hard up to locate one. It is just common Mexican sense. It is good service and good entertainment. It is the most basic necessity of any business or casa. In the US, we might ask ourselves, “How can I open my new business without a phone line and a phone number so my customers can contact me?” In México the question is, “How could I open a business without a tv? What would I do when there are no customers? What would give my customers ganas to stick around and spend money?”  My friend here in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, informs me that at his last visit to El Seguro, (the “nicer” health clinics for people with insurance), there was no soap or toilet paper in the bathroom…. but there was a television set in the waiting area!
 
The Government Loves TV, too!
“La television es nuestra cultura. Leer libros requiere mucho trabajo y atención. La television hace el trabajo por ti.”  (Television is our culture. Reading books requires a lot of work and attention. The television does the work for you.) This is a common sentiment my Mexican friends have shared with me over my time here in México. One of my buddies in his mid 20s in Querétaro made the following comment upon learning that I was opening a bookstore in San Miguel,”Lo que pasa es que después de la conquista de los indígenas, el gobierno Méxicano le declaró a la gente, ‘No es necesario que lean Uds. De hecho, ni es importante que sepan leer. Nosotros vamos a ser sus representantes. Tenemos estudios y educación; nosotros leeremos por Uds. y les diremos lo que necesitan saber. No se preocupen por estudiar ni dominar el español. Lo haremos por ti.’ Así que la gente no tomó la iniciativa de aprender a leer y escribir y el gobierno no hizo nada para apoyar el aprendizaje del público.” (What had happened was that after the Spanish conquest of the indigenous, the Mexican government declared to the people, ‘It is not necesary for you to read. Actually, it’s not even important to know how. We will be your representatives. We have studies and education; we will read for you and we will tell you what you need to know. Don’t worry about studying or dominating the Spanish language. We’ll do it for you.’ So the people didn’t take the initiative to learn to read and write and the government did nothing to support the education of the general public.) Today we continue receiving information hand-selected by the government, via the television. 
 
Knowledge is Poder
In most Mexican homes, the television is located in the center of the sala as a kind of shrine, as the one consistent source of information. of Education. of Knowledge. of Power. If I have a 4th grade education level and still can’t read or write well, at least I have the faithful television to keep me in-the-know. Just as my insightful friend in Querétaro stated, the government/church (can we even make a distinction in México?) is still choosing and interpreting the information it deems acceptable for the average Mexican to know. Whereas in the US we may find important news on the front of a newspaper, magazine, book, public radio show; in México the culture continues to be anti-reading. But no fear, it’s all on the television set.  
 
Happy tv watching!  See below for recommended viewing on the Televisa/Telemundo channels:
  • Laura: talk show representing women and children’s rights: Televisa M-Th 3pm central Mexico (see photo above)
  • Por Ella Soy Eva: telenovela/comedia about a cross-dreesing man who does so to win back his girl: Televisa M-F 8 or 9pm central Mexico
  • 100 Mexicanos Dijieron: Family Feud style celebrity game show: Televisa Sundays at 5or6pm central Mexico
  • Pequenos Gigantes: childrens Talent Show Competition: Televisa Sundays at 8 or 9pm central Mexico
  • Hoy!: Daily show: Televisa M-F 9am central Mexico