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Peru: clowns adapt to survive pandemic


Circus clown Santos Chiroque, whose stage name is “Piojito,” looks into a mirror as he demonstrates putting on his clown makeup using only lipstick, outside his home on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, on Monday, 10 August 2020.

AP Photo

In a desert terrain in Lima, Santos Chiroque keeps his yellow tent, the logs and the ropes with which until March he set up a small circus that fed him and his family.

But the new coronavirus pandemic, which locked millions in their homes, hit his business hard, as did a hundred other small circuses and half a thousand clowns throughout Peru.

Chiroque had built a new tent, an investment that has not been recovered. “Silver invested by the pure ones (in vain),” said the 74-year-old. Now his wife and five children sell caramel apples on the streets of Lima in exchange for a few coins.

Circuses were already in decline after the irruption of the internet, video games and live shows, but the wave of COVID-19 infections hit the sector hard.

Normally July and August are the most profitable months for clowns and circuses in Peru, but this season has been the worst in history.

Peru registers an average of more than 7,000 new cases of coronavirus and has reached a total of 507,996. The deaths total 25,648 and the country is the second in Latin America with the most infected after Brazil.

In the absence of work, clowns have had to adapt. Carlos Olazábal, 65, lives in his four-story house with his four children, with whom he performs children’s shows using video calls and cooking to sell caramel apples and popcorn.

Unlike Chiroque, the Olazábal family had some savings saved for eventual moments of crisis.

“I was not thinking of a pandemic, my fear is earthquakes,” said Olazábal. Peru is a country with frequent tremors because it is located in the so-called Pacific ring of fire.