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Clowns Without Borders in Guatemala

John Rudoff | Guatemala

Darina Robles Perez, a Mexican clown, performs this tour as "Migrant Chicken." It is a loosely constructed tale of a chicken migrating north towards North America, and is a framework on which clown, magic, juggling, and music all hang.

For several weeks in May 2022 two Mexican clowns, organized by Clowns Without Borders, performed for communities throughout Guatemala, mostly in areas of rural poverty, remote indigenous villages, in shelters for trafficking victims and for refugees who’d fled Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti.

They juggled, performed magic tricks, and carried both children and each other on their shoulders. Their theme—a Migrant Chicken fleeing on a train—is a nod to the [treacherous] journey of many migrants. 

The clowns were hugged by women who’d escaped traffickers, by children living from a backpack, and by a blind man who could only follow their spoken patter during the shows. The clowns have made many tours worldwide for CWB: they’re dedicated to the belief that laughter is valuable and necessary.

Clowns Without Borders International (CBW-I) is a 30-year-old charitable organization of professional clowns. They send clowns worldwide to provide joy and brief normalcy to children who endure war, displacement, natural disaster, or poverty. To date CWB-I has performed over 127,000 projects worldwide.

Clowns Without Borders-USA (CWB) is one chapter among others of Clowns Without Borders-International. It is a charitable organization (registers in the USA as a 501(c)3, and subsists entirely on grants and donations. I was invited to go on their Guatemala tour as a photojournalist covering the tour. I was not paid, but my in-country expenses, shelter, transportation, etc. were covered. I licensed my images to CWB for their public relations, fund-raising, and public-facing efforts. I had completely unrestricted access and could (and did) photograph every aspect of the tour; the sole exception was being asked not to photograph faces of some refugee women and girls who were escaping forced trafficking. 

I was greeted warmly by both the children and adults who visited the tour's shows, and I was asked to photograph both kids and adults along with the clowns after nearly every show. 

I used Canon DSLRs and an array of lenses. 

Clowns Without Borders-USA

Clowns Without Borders-International

UNHCR (United Nations High Commissoner for Refugees

John Rudoff



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