A chance meeting with a band of travelling Mexican street performers, malabaristas, leads Catriona Rainsford on a two-year, hand-to-mouth journey across Mexico. She writes, ‘They saw themselves as a modern take on the ancient tradition of the wandering entertainer, taking their art to the people, and taking whatever the people were prepared to give them to help them on their way.’
Learning to live off nothing more than a few circus skills and the kindness of strangers she finds there is more to her companions than meets the eye. They are not just entertainers. Their impromptu, freewheeling shows are a rejection of the corruptions and violence consuming the country.
Shocking and humorous, Catriona’s tale is full of the exhilaration of life on the road. She travels through dramatic landscapes and ravaged but resilient cities. Along the way she meets the extraordinary ordinary people – from mystics and madmen in the desert to urban intellectuals in Mexico City.
Packed with stories of the characters she meets, the book offers an insight into the day-to-day experiences of Mexico’s urban poor and those who tread a fine line between the two sides of Mexico: one a vibrant mix of Hispanic and indigenous cultures, the other a society traumatised by drugs cartels.
About Catriona Rainsford
Catriona is currently living in London where she continues to practice circus, talk to strange people on the street and speak Spanish in a strong Mexican accent. She has won prizes for her travel writing in the Bradt/Independent on Sunday competition in 2010 and a Guardian competition in 2009.
Extract from the book..
From Chapter 1: Millionaires
I craned around to watch as the cameras followed the men’s progress through Creel. The footage had been taken at dawn, the men’s long black shadows etched across the gold of the streets. They snorted handfuls of cocaine from clear plastic bags before approaching a house, firing several rounds through the front windows and then crashing through the front door with AK-47s tucked under their arms. We sat and looked until our driver heaved himself to his feet, brushed off his moustache, and lumbered out towards the truck with a sigh of ‘De verdad, Mexico está perdido.’ Truly, Mexico is lost.
We drained the last of our coffees and followed him outside. And I thought of Creel the way I had seen it, seven months before, the day I met Trico.
The first time I saw him, he was riding a unicycle along a wall. This was not unusual for Trico; he saw the entire world as a complicated arrangement of surfaces to ride unicycles on. But at the time I didn’t know that, and stopped walking for a few seconds to watch him.
Title: The Urban Circus - Travels with Mexico’s Malabaristas Author: Catriona Rainsford
Publisher: Bradt Travel Guides Publication: 27 February 2013
Price: £9.99 ISBN: 9781841624440