During the annual Peruvian clown trip we take Sunday’s off and relax. Some of us swim in the Amazon; others go into the jungle, visit butterfly farms and animal rescue centers. This year a small group of us took a half-hour canoe ride to see a ‘traditional’ Bora Indian village. The traditional Bora live far up river and rarely come down this far; those who have yielded to the pull of the city to create this village rarely return to their homeland. The families here speak mostly in Spanish, their children bilingual but losing fluency in their native tongue.
A large sign welcomes us to the landing site announcing the Bora Indian village. We walk up the path and announce our arrival by beating drums at the entrance. The Chief comes out to greet us and leads us into a large ceremonial structure; a palm thatched circular building with a pitched ceiling at least 30 feet high and capable of holding 100 people. We sit on benches facing the Chief, and behind him stand a handful of women. Traditionally, they would have all been bare breasted; now most are demurely attired in beaded halter-tops. Behind the women a handful of men and boys complete the ensemble.
The Chief announces that they will perform three dances, during the last one we will be invited to join them and after that we would buy things that he pointed out were hanging on the outer perimeter it was all a pretty perfunctory, well rehearsed but soulless commercial show of gaily attired natives performing for tourists.
When the third round came, the women came for us and pulled us into the circle where we joined in a two-step around dance… until Patch Adams started feeling his own rhythm. He started bouncing to the drumbeat and the rest of the clowns joined in. There were floating balloons and volleyball games, Patch lifted kids on his shoulders, I drummed, we sang, the Bora giggled.
At one point Patch goes over to the Chief and motions for him to bend over. Patch pulls a battery operated portable fart machine out of one of his pockets and presses the loudest one. The chief starts laughing hysterically and gets up and makes Patch give it to him. Then he motions for Patch to bend over and presses all of the varieties on the machine. The Chief gives it to his wife who repeats the entire repertoire with Patch wriggling and jumping in accompaniment to the flatulent serenade.
Dancing and farting, it was pandemonium. Clowns and Bora laughing and dancing to real music, sharing our authentic souls as people not actors. When we come together this way it binds us in shared humanity.