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Peru's shoestring circuses struggle to survive

Updated : July 25, 2018 02:54 PM IST

Inside a yellow and blue tent overlooking the desert hills of Peru's capital city, the Tony Perejil circus comes to life.

A set of brown goats hobble up a narrow plank. A woman balances a newspaper rolled into an inverted cone on her nose. Another performer does acrobatics on horseback before half-empty rows of spectators.

The mom-and-pop style spectacle is one of about a hundred remaining circuses in Peru that manage to eke out a living despite waning public enthusiasm for clown and animal acts in an age of viral internet videos and cellphones.

Equilibrist Gladys Melendez, the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, gets ready for the opening act at the International Circus set up in the shantytown of Pro on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The mom-and-pop style spectacle is one of about a hundred remaining circuses that manage to eke out a living in an age of viral internet videos and cellphones. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Equilibrist Gladys Melendez, the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, gets ready for the opening act at the International Circus set up in the shantytown of Pro on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The mom-and-pop style spectacle is one of about a hundred remaining circuses that manage to eke out a living in an age of viral internet videos and cellphones. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
"Vaguito" the clown assists acrobat Brenda Aguila as she prepares to hang from her head, as spectators watch the Tony Perejil circus, set up in the shanty town of Puente Piedra on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The circus owner, Jose Alvarez, said he remembers happier times in the 1980s, when his father filled their circus tent with people even though Peru was in the midst of an economic crisis and a war raged between the state and Sendero Luminoso guerrillas. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Taxi drivers pass La Panfila Circus tent set up in Villa El Salvador in Lima, Peru. Family circuses maintain much of the old-time traditions of the past: Clowns perform in makeup under tents with a traditional cone-shaped roof and a simple dirt stage. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Taxi drivers pass La Panfila Circus tent set up in Villa El Salvador in Lima, Peru. Family circuses maintain much of the old-time traditions of the past: Clowns perform in makeup under tents with a traditional cone-shaped roof and a simple dirt stage. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Youths play soccer next to the Tony Perejil circus. Urban expansion in the city of 10 million inhabitants makes it tough to find enough space to set up a tent in a centrally located neighbourhood, while gangs of delinquents charge up to $10 a day for circuses to set up shop in depressed barrios. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Youths play soccer next to the Tony Perejil circus. Urban expansion in the city of 10 million inhabitants makes it tough to find enough space to set up a tent in a centrally located neighbourhood, while gangs of delinquents charge up to $10 a day for circuses to set up shop in depressed barrios. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Santiago Astopilco puts on his clown make-up to play the part of
Santiago Astopilco puts on his clown make-up to play the part of "Vaguito" inside his tent at the Tony Perejil circus. These days, Lima's circus acts find themselves increasingly pinched for space and money. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Circus owner and clown Jose Alvarez talks into a speaker system to announce the soon-to-start opening act, as he sits under the circus tent. One night, Alvarez tallied the ticket sales for the circus named after his father and sighed when he realized they'd earned less than $40. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Circus owner and clown Jose Alvarez talks into a speaker system to announce the soon-to-start opening act, as he sits under the circus tent. One night, Alvarez tallied the ticket sales for the circus named after his father and sighed when he realized they'd earned less than $40. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
A sign advertising the International Circus sits on a car parked on a main road in the shantytown of Pro on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The small circus is one of about a hundred remaining circuses that manages to eke out a living despite waning public enthusiasm for clown and animal acts in an age of viral internet videos and cellphones. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
A sign advertising the International Circus sits on a car parked on a main road in the shantytown of Pro on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The small circus is one of about a hundred remaining circuses that manages to eke out a living despite waning public enthusiasm for clown and animal acts in an age of viral internet videos and cellphones. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
People buy tickets to enter a show by the International Circus set up in the shantytown of Pro on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The billboard at left reads in Spanish
People buy tickets to enter a show by the International Circus set up in the shantytown of Pro on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The billboard at left reads in Spanish "Magic, illusion and fantasy show." (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Clowns Joshep Balta, or
Clowns Joshep Balta, or "Cachupito," left, and Bryan Jara, or "Fideito Mix" wait to open their show at the International Circus set up in the shantytown of Pro on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. Circus workers say the word 'clown' is used incorrectly in Peru, and understood as a pejorative. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Santiago Astopilco, dressed as his clown personality
Santiago Astopilco, dressed as his clown personality "Vaguito" poses for a portrait behind the Tony Perejil circus tent set up in the shantytown of Puente Piedra, before the start of the show on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. Circus workers earn a percentage of ticket sales, sell candy and hotdogs on sticks to make extra money, and travel year-round from town to town, with July being the high season in the capital. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Catherine Barboza performs a balancing act before a few spectators inside the Tony Perejil circus tent set up in the shantytown of Puente Piedra on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. Barboza, who cares for her very young son while living with the circus, is known as
Catherine Barboza performs a balancing act before a few spectators inside the Tony Perejil circus tent set up in the shantytown of Puente Piedra on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. Barboza, who cares for her very young son while living with the circus, is known as "Seal Woman." (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Homes in the Puente Piedra shantytown light up the landscape around the Tony Perejil circus set up on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The circus' owner Jose Alvarez, a 52-year-old businessman, said
Homes in the Puente Piedra shantytown light up the landscape around the Tony Perejil circus set up on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The circus' owner Jose Alvarez, a 52-year-old businessman, said "Lima is lousy" for his circus, and that he'll move it north toward Peru's border with Ecuador. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
A woman with her baby waits for one of her daughters to arrive before entering the Tony Perejil circus tent, set up in the shantytown of Puente Piedra on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. Tickets cost 6 Soles (2 dollars) for adults, and are half price for children. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
A woman with her baby waits for one of her daughters to arrive before entering the Tony Perejil circus tent, set up in the shantytown of Puente Piedra on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. Tickets cost 6 Soles (2 dollars) for adults, and are half price for children. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Published : July 25, 2018 02:54 PM IST
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