There's always a circus in town here. Maintaining a level of popularity that doesn't appear to wane, circus troupes can be found all over the metropolitan area on any given day. A Texas-flag themed Circo Americano has its tent poking into the horizon by my in-laws' house, and at least three or four a year set up on the Corona grounds near our own place. The enormous Corona distribution center, or as everyone calls it, "La Corona," hosts a parade of functions on its small fair grounds next to the main street in Nicolás Romero, from politician's swearing-in parties to leather shoe extravaganzas from the city of León, in Guanajuato. But the most widely advertised and attended events are those nightly performances at the circus.
Those of us found at home during the day always know when another circus has arrived. Cars roll their way slowly along every street, making use of perifoneo--megaphone advertising made of the blaring horns affixed to car roofs--streaming announcements from microphones or taped recordings. We've heard "Hoy, en la Corona!" fill the air around our house via car and plane, and it's foretelling of lions and tigers and bears has become code between Patricio and me for anything big happening soon.
And something big did happen on Sunday, though instead of happening in the Corona, it happened in the Carpa Astros, down south in the Distrito Federal. This something was, indeed, a circus. Or might I say, the circus, since its name is synonymous with the business in Mexico. We were graciously invited to the season's final show of Circo Atayde in the city, the oldest circus in the country, founded the year my great-grandmother was born. It was 1888 that the first Atayde brother, who'd run away from home to join the circus, returned to convince his brothers to form a company of their own. The second generation propelled their gymnastic bar act into the Guinness World Records. And 118 years later, Patricio were sitting with an Atayde descendant along the edge of the show's ring.
It had been years since either of us had gone to see a circus, but it only took seconds to realize why they can't help but enchant. Circo Atayde creates a world of the implausible, a fantastical reality that kept our eyes open wide. Natalia's aerial dance, the brothers of Rialcris Trío's acrobatic balancing act, along with hoop dancing, magic, simpatico clowning, and elephants, tigers and horses (oh my!), all pulled us under their spell. The skill involved is extraordinary, like that of my two favorites--the Marinof couple who perform their own type of trapeze work, a graceful choreography of hanging in the air, often by the strength of Mr. Marinof's own teeth. And without so much as a net underneath. Mexico already lends itself to magical realism, and the circus seems tailor made for the tendency.
The ringleader and his mother, both Atayde folks themselves, were in justifiably high spirits after the show. As the tents' dismantling efficiently began, they talked of moving on to Puebla, saying goodbye to some of the performers and animals as new contracts are fulfilled. The circus is an almost constant current of change, with artists' origins spanning the globe, an international showcase of the amazing.
There may always be a circus in town, and some may even bill themselves as "Atayde," but there's only one real Circo Atayde Hermanos, a true Mexican original.