In Panajachel, Guatemala, we met Sergio Barrios. He is a man from Chile with the most beautiful dreadlocks I’ve ever seen. We found him on the street at dusk, working his puppets, a pair of very grungy men in a quaint park.
One of the puppets is a drunk, a man who drinks from the bottle he holds in his hand and passes out on the ground of the park. The other one is a painter, holding a brush in one hand and a dirty rag in the other. His apron is smeared with paint spatters. His easel is set up to one side of the park, and to my amazement Sergio was able to make him actually paint, dipping his brush into one colour and then another, rinsing with water in between.
What was incredible was that these grungy puppets with papier mache heads, hands and feet, and clothes sewn from old rags, came so totally alive. They each had their own personality and conveyed so much without a hint of spoken word. They interacted with the audience, they asked for a tip through their gestures and body languages, they expressed all manner of emotions. I was mesmerised, totally drawn in. When the show ended I stayed and talked with Sergio and we struck up a connection almost immediately. Perhaps it was the dreadlocks, or maybe he just liked to have his work admired – whatever, we talked for quite a while.
We introduced Sergio to Pathik, a mosaic artist we had met, so that Sergio could perform at the opening of Pathik’s art exhibition. Pathik had asked me to perform but I haven’t anything here – no hula hoops, no adagio partner, no costume … I’m on holidays.
Sergio’s act was perfect – his grungy puppets matched so well with the art on display, and like I had been, the audience were mesmerised and delighted. I could tell he was nervous beforehands – he was putting a lot of extra effort into setting up, he wore a special outfit – his wool spencer with a pair of pants and a piece of black fabric tied around his waist in the manner of a skirt. He had excellent stage presence and spoke very dramatically in Spanish. He asked Paula to interpret a small part of his speech and she stood with a piece of paper in her hand to issue forth his words when indicated. This made her (and us) famous, as the exhibition was full of the ex-pat gringos who live around here, and suddenly people thought we were one of them, that maybe we live here too.