What do NYC street performers tell us about our city? How do they relate to the clowns in Lima depicted by Daniel Alarcón?
Daniel Alarcón is a writer and radio producer exploring the social, cultural, and linguistic ties that connect people across Latin America and Spanish-speaking communities in the Americas. His powerful narrative storytelling—in English and Spanish, fiction and nonfiction, print and audio—chronicles individual lives and underreported topics against the backdrop of broader geopolitical and historical forces in the United States and Central and South America.
7:30- 9:25 / 11:55-14:30
Oscar “Chino” Uribe is a young Peruvian journalist for a local tabloid paper. After the recent death of his father, he must confront the idea of his father’s other family, and how much of his own identity has been shaped by his father’s morals. At the same time, he begins to chronicle the life of street clowns, sad characters who populate the city streets of Lima and is drawn into their haunting, fantastical world.
Alarcón depicts the city as a place where corruption and violence are rampant, and where the gap between the rich and poor is vast. This is exemplified by the way in which Chino’s family must navigate their way through the city in order to find work and make a living.
How Alarcón presents the complex connection between migration, families, and social instability?
An Evolving City/Neighborhood
The story highlights the cultural and socio-economic tensions that exist in Lima, as the city is home to a diverse population of indigenous people, Afro-Peruvians, and immigrants from other countries.
How San Juan becomes a microcosmos of Lima?
What social tensions are reflected in the interactions between the characters in the novel?
Images and storytelling
Sheila Alvarado’s artwork plays with perspective, shadows, and time, with oversized clowns stomping over the cityscape, eerie images depicted in shadows, and characters drifting outside and between panels.
Why do you think Alvarado choose that aesthetic? What elements from the text Alvarado wants to highlight? How do her images complement the story?
-Kay T. Xia, “City of Clowns a Swirling Metropolis of Memories”
Writing Exercise: Steeping in a Character’s Shoes
1. Pick ONE of the following characters from the second part of the graphic story. Write a paragraph in which you expand on (or even contradict) what the narrator, Chino, is saying from the point of view of that character.
.the clown who sells mints and was attacked with water balloons
.One of the shoeshine boys
.Carla the stilted or the sex worker
2. Use these questions to guide your writing:
How their specific urban environment affects their decisions?
How and why they are intervening in the socio-political landscape of the city?
What are their aspirations?
How are they surviving?
What social constraints and stigmas they are facing?