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8532: Circus gives Haitians a break from daily grind (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Trenton Daniel

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 3 (Reuters) - Ladies and gentlemen, children of
all ages! Step this way! Welcome to the Suarez Brothers Circus! In Haiti?
     Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey it was not, but it was
entertaining, a thrilling temporary escape from the impoverished Caribbean
nation's seemingly never-ending political turmoil and the daily grind of
getting by.
     Underneath a rather little top, through an entrance illuminated with a
sign beaming "Holiday" in bright lights, the show in Haiti's capital
presented standard circus fare. There were acrobats, fire-eaters,
sword-swallowers, jugglers, tiger tamers, whistle-blowing midgets, jungle
animals and clowns with a penchant for crotch jokes and for falling down.
     The audience was spellbound.
     For Muriel, a 22-year-old medical student, the clowns and their
bottomless bag of tricks were the best part and she was laughing throughout
the three-hour show.   "I came because I was curious and I wanted to see
what it was like," she said, adding she thought it had been at least 20
years since a circus last came to Haiti.
     The Suarez Brothers Circus is a traveling show from Guadalajara,
Mexico, made up of a fifth generation of circus workers whose performers
hail from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Italy, Jamaica and the
United States.
     They paid a monthlong visit to Haiti, their first trip to the country,
after touring throughout the neighboring Dominican Republic, other
Caribbean nations and Central America.
     But it was not just the Haitians seeing something new.
     "It's been interesting," Celena Maltese, a 26-year-old dancer from
Jamaica, said of Haiti. "We learned that it's not what people said it was.
People have treated us great. We're hoping to come back in two years."
     Maltese said Haiti offered a change of pace for the circus performers.
She and her colleagues stayed in at night, rather than enjoying the city's
nightlife. "We have this after-the-show life," she said after one 
performance. "It's different here, so we're having a relaxed moment."
     Both the threat and the reality of crime keep many of Haiti's 7.8
million people on edge and confined to their congested living quarters
after dusk.
     Apart from being the poorest country in the Americas, Haiti is still
trying to establish its democratic credentials after years of repression
and dictatorships. The start of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's second
term has been overshadowed by a long political dispute over parliamentary
elections last year.
    But the Suarez Brothers show in the dusty Delmas district provided a
retreat from the turbulent political arena.
     Children, awestruck at the clumsy tigers, patchy camels and miniature
ponies, sat on the edge of their seats -- wide-eyed, smiling, and with
cotton candy stuck to their chins.
     "I liked the elephants," whispered a timid Sophie, 3.
     If laughter was a barometer of an act's success, then one particular
clown stunt was a hit.
     A couple of clowns dragged an intrepid audience member into the ring
and handcuffed him to a board. Then they pulled out a collection of shiny
knives while a clown blindfolded himself and placed a bag over the nervous
man's head.
     Then another man loudly stabbed the knives into the board, just
missing the man from the audience, presumably quaking at the thought the
blindfolded clown was throwing them.
     The show ended with a tanklike mobile with flashing lights wheeling to
the ring's edge and -- boom! -- one of the Suarez brothers, wearing a
heavily padded motorcycle uniform, shot out of a long barrel and onto a
stretched net. He swung off the net to the ground and bowed to the cheering
     "It was a good thing to see the circus," said Francois Michel, a
19-year-old student. "It was a nice break from everything."