The Street Performer

The Street Performer

By Teri Saya


mexicocity-performerMany of the major intersections here in Mexico have street performers. If you are the first car to hit the red light, you get the best seat in the house for these three to five minute shows. I’ve seen acrobats, dancers, drummers, jugglers, and fire-eaters. That’s just the line-up for intersections, there is so much more!

In the El Centro (downtown) in Guadalajara on a weekend, you’ll see an amazing array of these performances. The performers themselves can vary greatly in skill. Some of them are just kids with hula-hoops and devil sticks. Devil sticks are fun; I bought some of these for my sons when they were young. It’s a 3-foot long rubber baton that you keep twirling in the air with two sticks. These little street performers are really good at it! Their costumes range from a dirty T-shirt and torn pants to sequins and lace.

Some of the acrobats and jugglers do elaborate “Cirque du Soleil” moves that are amazing! You’ll be walking along the square and come across a crowd of people. Suddenly a lithe teen-age girl pops ten feet in the air above the crowd, spins and drops back out of sight. You push your way in and find four acrobats pulling the corners of a large, thick cloth while the girl in the middle bounces gracefully into the air, back flips twice and lands gently to be propelled once again. After several bounces, the acrobats drop the cloth and make a living totem pole. The brawniest guy at the bottom and the girl standing at the top, her arms outstretched.

Around the corner, one guy dresses up as a Chinese monk with the conical hat and robes. He does a levitating act that is pretty cool! He sits on a mat in the lotus position. Then slowly rises about two feet from the mat and seems to float there. He has little silk flowers that he hands to anyone coming close enough to see how he does it.

The traditional Concheros dancers are colorful and lively. They wear intricate Aztec style headdresses and costumes. Their indigenous instruments consist of drums, flutes, rattles, and ankle shells. The Concheros Dance is ceremonial and has been performed since the colonial times in Mexico.

The brightly colored costumes of the tall stilt walkers billow in the breeze as they stride through El Centro square. Below them are clowns on unicycles circling and honking their little horns at the kids. 

Throughout the year, many of these performances include images of skeletons to represent “The Day of the Dead,” which honors loved ones who have passed on. It’s a huge celebration in Mexico from October 31st to November 2nd. Sometimes, there is just one tall man dressed up as death leaning on a scythe. With a creep factor of ten, he stands still in the middle of a busy walkway turning his hooded head, watching people as they go by. His boney hand holds a small sack where people drop their extra change.

Back at the intersection, a shirtless man carries a flaming stick. He takes a mouthful of flammable liquid and creates a three-foot blowtorch by spraying this stuff on the flame.  If your car is one of those closest to this dragon act, some of the spray lands on your windshield. Hmmm, let’s think about this for a second. It’s an intersection, you’re sitting in a car carrying about sixteen gallons of fuel in your tank. Fumes are being spewed out of exhaust pipes all around you. Is it me or does anyone else feel a bit nervous?


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