BOGOTA – A street circus in Bogota has decided to expand its work with the aim of helping people affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.
Now, in addition to going to poor neighborhoods to present their act, the members are also making community lunches for those most in need.
With their “bat soup,” the members of the Circo Encuentro group are going up to the slums in southern Bogota where red flags are hanging outside many houses, a symbol of an urgent need for assistance for those who don’t have anything to eat on account of the lockdown declared by the government since March 25 to contain the coronavirus epidemic.
“We realized that there were red flags in several neighborhoods, that people were stressed, also mentally, because we were forced to lock ourselves in our houses without any preparation,” Alexandra Suarez, one of the four members of Circo Encuentro who takes part in the initiative, told EFE.
The circus was born 11 years ago in Bogota and Suarez became part of it five years later, when she saw them doing a show in a park in the south of the city.
Dressed in shirts with red and white vertical stripes and sporting colorful noses, quirky hats and masks with attractive images, the circus members arrive with monocycles, bowls and pots filled with soup to carry out their social work.
However, behind the broad smiles and the juggling, is a careful process that begins days earlier when they begin to seek donations of food that will allow them to cook the “bat soup,” which also feeds the four members of the group who are now without work due to the lockdown.
“We dedicate ourselves to art, we engage in artistic collaborations with companies (…) Because of the pandemic, we are totally unemployed, abandoned by the State. (We live) currently on the goodwill of those who want us to collaborate with food, because we are also eating this food,” Suarez said.
The artist explained that for days they go to shops, markets and places in search of food donations, which they clean thoroughly a day before preparing the soup.
They then decide where they will distribute the soup after taking into account the number of red flags and safety conditions to avoid accidents in the neighborhoods and reach there with the pots of food.
“After the preparations, peeling and chopping, we let the soup cook. When the soup is almost done, we start doing our makeup and getting ready, and then we proceed with the artistic show,” she explained.
In addition to eliciting smiles from children and providing adults with a distraction from the difficult circumstances they are living in, Circo Encuentro is using its shows to promote handwashing and the use of masks among people to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We do this artistic show with some circus and cultural acts but also with a lesson because the idea is to leave a message,” Suarez said.
In her opinion, the work the group is doing should be replicated in many sectors by many more people who have a vocation to help those most affected by the long lockdown that Colombia has been under for almost three months.
“This has a process and it is a long process, which is not easy. Having the shopkeeper reject you is difficult to handle but the reward of all that (effort) is the happiness that people are getting food, to see the children so happy that the circus has come to their homes,” she said.