Israel Portugal pivots on the slack wire with catlike confidence, catching the small balls tossed to him by his brother Aldo, who is standing just below the sagging cable.
Now, Israel is juggling. The balls rotate rhythmically above his head as he retains his precarious perch several feet off the ground.
Israel, 16, and Aldo, 20, members of Do Portugal, a 40-member traveling circus from central Mexico, are rehearsing on a recent weekday in the show’s purple and white striped tent on the grounds of the Eastern New Mexico State Fair. The circus has been marooned here since mid-March when coronavirus restrictions shut down New Mexico.
When that happened, a troupe not accustomed to staying in any one place for more than two weeks was faced with no place to go and the harrowing possibility of no place to be.
“Luckily, the state fair came to us and said we could stay here as long as we need to and use the fair’s electricity and water,” said circus manager Damian Portugal.
Leslie Robertson, assistant office manager for the fair, said that there was never any question about that.
“From (fair) board President Larry Hobson on down, the Eastern New Mexico State Fair is about community, family and children,” Robertson said. “There was no option. They had no place they could go. Now, the circus is part of the fair family…”
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