world traveler
    clown tom bolton

photos and stories of Tom's adventures in south america - argentina
...buenos aires, argentina...

I flew to Argentina in Jan. 1995 Upon arrival I was met by Marcelo Katz a well know local actor who was one of the co-founders of a circus school called "La Arena" pictured below. I made contact to him through the friends I had made the year before in Lima, Peru at the circus school there. Marcelo warmly welcomed me and my future wife who came for part of this trip. Marcello had an Aunt who had recently passed away and let us use her now vacant apartment. This was great since the prices in Argentina at the time were outrageous and the Peso was still pegged 1:1 with the US dollar.

circus school buenos aires argentina

I found out that there were many good performers in Buenos Aires and another circus school. Traditional circus people ran Criolla and when I showed up and showed off some juggling techniques the trainer hadn't seen, he acted strangely. He called me "amigo" but obviously felt threatened and said the things I did were very new although most of it had been around for at least 15 years in the States. He went on to say how the "tempo" style of juggling as fast as possible is superior and expounded on the history of Argentinean circus tradition. Unlike at La Arena, they didn't seem very open to new ideas or techniques.

I later met a couple of jugglers who performed under the name "Malabaristas del Apacolypso". Here I visited their place that had juggling equipment everywhere and tall unicycles, which they set out during their shows as an attraction but they hadn't yet learned to ride them well enough to perform with them. Sorry to say, I don't remember the name of their friend who is on this picture. He was coincidently the boyfriend of the artist I had met in Peru who introduced me to the circus school in Lima. The juggling scene was very small in those days. I was invited to a birthday party and was told that probably 90% of the jugglers in Argentina who could juggle with clubs were in that one room. Since then, juggling has exploded in popularity.

juggler buenos aires argentina

This is one of the pedestrian streets in central Buenos Aires. It is very much like a European city but unfortunately the people seem to let it go to their head. Some how they were proud of their country but not that it was in South America. I once asked for avocados in a supermarket and they said in an insulted tone of voice that such things are for "Indios", not for them. And my Spanish was often "corrected" by them to mimic the Buenos Aires dialect where "yo voy a la playa" becomes "zjo voyzsh a lah playzha". This attitude is resented by many other South American who consider the Portenos as they are know, as the "ugly Americans" of the southern hemisphere. The economic crisis that hit a few years later might have humbled them a little though. Even when I was there it was tough for the local performers. They made most of their money during the "Temporada" which is their summer vacation time Jan.-Feb. Most of the performers would leave Buenos Aires, where Recoleta Park is their main performing space, for coastal vacation towns, which I visited, like Pinamar, San Bernardo, Santa Therasita and Villa Gesell. They tended to stake out a pitch and would fight off any other performers who would dare to try their chosen town.

I traveled through and just tried some small solo shown not having props or costumes for a proper show which was especially tough since many local groups did 2 hour long mega-shows with many performers. Nearly all the performers were friendly with me once they realized I was not staying around long. Most were also curious to hear about the European street scene. Unfortunately, most of the performers seemed to regard their colleagues as threatening competitors to be avoided. The highlight of my European performances on the other hand have always been getting together with other performers at big festivals. It's like a big Gypsy family in a way but this feeling of comradeship was missing in Argentina.

buenos aires argentina south america

This is a photo from the Plaza de Mayo in front of the Presidential palace. During the repression by the military regime 1976 - 1983, many of the mothers of the "disappeared" came here to protest. Known as the mothers of the plaza de Mayo, some were still coming and protesting that the government account for the missing people, which were usually murdered for possible left-wing leanings.

buenos aires argentina plaza de mayo

This is a photo from the neighborhood know as la Boca. The houses are made of wood and covered with corrugated sheet metal recycled from wrecked ships, not fancy but often painted in bright colors. Italian immigrants built this area; despite some gentrification it is still a real working-class place.

la boca buenos aires argentina

...western argentina...

From the capital we went west to Mendoza. From there we did a day trip to "Puente del Inca" or bridge of the Inca, named for a natural bridge next to some hot mineral springs. The Indians prized the antibiotic effects of the high sulphur contented water. The leader of the Incas was said to suffer from a festering war wound and had a spa built here to recuperate and bath in the healing waters.

puente del inca argentina

From Puente del Inca we walked a couple of hours to this park, which contains some of the highest peaks in the Andes.

mendoza argentina south america

That peak in the background is Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of the Himalaya. We met a number of climbers returning from trying to scale the peak. Not all were successful due to high winds and temperatures of 40 below zero.

mountain mendoza argentina andes

We stopped by a beautiful old church with a courtyard in the area near Puente del Inca where I took these next 3 shots. I don't remember the name or exactly where it was but it was getting towards sunset, which made the photos difficult but picturesque. If someone recognizes this place and can give me some information about it, please send me an email.


salto argentina photos

argentina south america travels

argentina south america travels

...northern argentina desert..

North from Mendoza we went to San Juan and on to the Difunte Correa shrine. The legend is that a woman tried to cross the desert to reach her sick husband. She died but her baby survived and was found some days later nursing from her dead breast. Anyway, the "miracle" has lead to people building shrines here with all kinds of crazy object including a miniature circus set, wedding photos, license plates, keys, business cards etc. Grounds for a cult following obviously are nothing new!

argentina south america travels

...moon valley argentina...

North from San Juan we arrived in S. Augustin, which was a starting point for a day trip to "Valle de la Luna". There was no transportation or tours available that we found. Luckily we ran into 2 other tourists who had arranged a car and driver to take them through the park and we had to throw in 100 dollars to split the cost with them.

valle de la luna argentina

We drove one or two hundred miles throughout the park. Much of the geographic formations reminded me of Arizona and New Mexico in the USA. One sees the red cliffs in the distance of the next photo that are seen better in the following photos.

moon valley argentina

moon valley argentina

argentina south america adventures

argentina south america cliffs

If you take a close look at the left part of the lower cliff, in the center of this photo below, you will notice the Indian hieroglyphics scratched into the black stone. Such spots were pointed out to us by the taxi driver, which made the trip worth the extra money one might have saved with one's own vehicle. A bus tour would be a good idea but I'm not sure if so many people visit there to make it profitable. We only saw a few other tourists but that might be due to the lack of cheap organized tours. Most all of the tourists we saw in the areas were foreigners. The locals seemed to prefer going to the beach towns rather than visiting their own cultural sites.

argentina moon valley hieroglyphics

So, those were just a few tales from my many travels over the last twenty and something years. I hope you've enjoyed another side of a traveling clown! If you want, write me an email or better yet, book my show or set a link to this website or just state me as the beneficiary of your will!

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copyright © 2007 Tom Bolton


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