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The Circus is in Town!

Posted by Jane G/Lois Lane on January 29, 2014, 12:45 pm

Circo Osorio has returned to La Manzanilla and is once again setting up in the rock quarry directly behind our usually tranquil compound. The good news is that, as Mexican circuses go, this is the best I've seen. Below is Lois Lane's take on it, pulled from the Way-Back machine. They'll probably be here for four or five days, so if you're looking for a truly unique experience ...

April 3, 2010
By Jane Gorby (

Circus Within a Circus

I have frequently referred to life in La Manzanilla as a circus. Colorful characters and quotidian quirkiness keep us just enough of a bubble off center to suspend conventional reality.

So when the real circus pulled into town, I didn’t give it a second thought. Once or twice a year a traveling circus sets up in La Manzanilla, usually in an open field on the other side of town, out by the arroyo. Out of sight, out of mind. Also out of earshot and olfactory range.

When I saw seven red and yellow Circo Osorio semis circle the rock quarry directly behind my house, my reaction (in text-messaging vernacular) went from WTF to OMG. The circus isn’t just in town, it’s in my backyard. Big top, glitzy marquee and all!

The field where my housecats do their jungle-mode thing now has a resident tiger. Llamas, giraffes and zebras, among other exotic critters, are grazing in the grass along my street. Creatures apparently not sufficiently socialized to be tethered streetside laze in sheltered cages. As accommodations go for circuses, Osorio may have picked the best spot in town in terms of shade, breeze, and available fodder. Nonetheless, a circus next door in a usually tranquil neighborhood is, well, disconcerting.

A Google search for Circo Osorio led me to believe this might be part of the famed Osorio Brothers American Crown Circus which has performed throughout the United States and the world. Their well maintained trucks and equipment, equally well equipped campers for performers and crew, and the cleanliness of the spacious stock pens, not to mention the overall healthy appearance of the animals, indicated that this was not another fly-by-night outfit just passing through.

Long past the age where I might be tempted to run away with the circus, the Lois Lane of La Manzanilla cocked her pen and set out in search of the story behind my new, albeit temporary, neighbors. What I found was a tight-knit family of attractive, intelligent professionals who take a great deal of pride in their work. In other words, just plain folks making a living the only way they know.

As they thawed to the idea of a blond gringa intruding on their private morning time, performers joined my interview under the cavernous big-top with trapeze artist, Johnson (a stage name he picked up in Texas, he explained). Soon I was being good naturedly pelted with information in Spanish too rapid-fire for my barely-bilingual brain to process. I got the basics, though.

The US Osorios are cousins. This branch of Circo Osorio was formed in Mexico in the 1930s, is headquartered in Puerto Vallarta, and has performed throughout the country. They currently travel with about 50 performers and crew members, apparently all of them related. Most of them have been with this circus since they were born, and the acts tend to be transgenerational, i.e., babies born into the trapeze family grow up to perform on the trapeze. On their way south, they’ll be in La Manzanilla for six days before heading to Manzanillo.

The scene around the long breakfast table, to which I was invited but declined, was that of a typical large Mexican family. The younger women cooked and served plates heaped with eggs, beans, meats, and fresh tortillas under the supervision of the duena and the gerente, Pedro Villagrana. There was much laughter and bantering. Children waited politely to be served and infants cooed in anticipation. There were even dogs under the table hoping for falling treasure. I left them with a Buen Provecho and the promise to return for the night’s opening espectaculo.

Okay, so it wasn’t Cirque de Soleil, or even Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. After a couple of anticipatory tequilas, however, the show turned out to be pretty good. When the male performers came out and took off their shirts, I had a quick flashback to Porky’s, but everything evened out after that.

Everyone was dressed in their show finery, so it was difficult to distinguish the performers from the casual family members I’d met earlier in the day. I think they all got into the act, though, throughout fast-moving hour and 15-minute show.

The kids did acrobatics and tricks on the trampoline with Oscar. Hans, the domodoro (animal handler) did a masterful job trotting out the ponies and camels, then the monkeys, later a feisty, three-year-old Bengal tiger, and eventually the elephant, and putting them through their paces. Johnson doubled as ring master until it was time for him to join his brothers, Duglas and Zerahun, on the trapeze. And there was no mistaking Tango the Clown’s play-dead dog as one who’d tried to cadge a snack from me at breakfast.

The “power of the press” didn’t get my 50-peso ringside seat (20 pesos for bleacher seats) comp’ed, but it did get me a free picture with Dumbo the elephant. Hey, people were standing in line to pay 50 pesos a pop for a photo of their kids astride the giant pachy. When I realized a ladder was involved to mount the beast, however, I settled for a profile shot with my feet planted firmly on the ground.

If opening night was any indication, Circo Osorio will have a successful run in La Manzanilla, and I wish them well. Even in a venue as familiar as an unsightly old rock quarry, the draw of the big top calls to kids of all ages. It’s easy to suspend reality amidst the lights and music and spangled costumes, and the delighted smiles and ooohs and aaahs circling the tent.

I’m not sure how they’ll be as neighbors through the next five nights of performances, though. If it gets too noisy on my side of the tent, I may have to sneak back in for another show. But I doubt there’s enough tequila in Mexico for me to perch atop that elephant.


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