Los Chicharrines Tijuana

If French surrealist theorist Andre Breton’s assertion is to be believed, that “Mexico is the most surrealist country in the world,” Tijuana most certainly would register as the surrealist of its cities. One doesn’t need to dig deeper than the newspaper headlines of city’s two respectable dailies to find real news stories dripping with the absurdity that makes them better suited for tabloids like the Weekly World News. But in Tijuana, truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Take for instance the story dominating this week’s news cycle. It all started last Sunday, when Mexico’s famous sibling clown duo, Los Chicharrines, abruptly cancelled their Tijuana performance at Parque Morelos mid-show, after allegedly received death threats. Offering the audience no explanation, Los Chicharrines bid farewell to 12,000 paying fans after just 50 minutes.

By all accounts, the day was a disaster in the making long before Los Chicharrines took to the stage. Long queues to get in, security issues, a crumby sound system, and poor sight lines that left a majority of audience unable to view the performance and well out of ear shot, spoiled the fun for show-goers. Unaware of the alleged threats, the crowd’s frustration gave way to anger when the program was cut short. Shouts of “fraud, fraud, fraud” escalated into a unruly mob, who directed a fusillade of bottles at the clowns’ passing motorcade, according to one report.

As surreal as that sounds, it’s the rated PG version of story. Event promoter Manolo Zae gave an even more colorful, Hollywoodized recounting to the local media, claiming that shortly after the Los Chicharrines left the park, they came under fire and were chased through the streets of Tijuana by a car full of armed men.

While never out of the realm of possibility in a town like Tijuana, Zae’s version of the story has been vehemently disputed by Tijuana’s mayor Jorge Ramos Hernández, who maintains that clowns were never in any danger, and the fictional account of the day’s events that dominated Monday’s headlines is yet another black eye for the city. “There was no threat of death against the comics, there was no car chase, no shots, no other such incidents,” Ramos said.

Tijuana’s corpse-slapping, tough-as-nails Secretary of Public Security, Julian Leyzaola, also denied claims of an attack, noting the absence of a bullet riddled car or casings at the scene. Los Chicharrines’ manager Joel Cano Jr., sticking to the official Ramos/Leyzaola line that no such attack occurred, listed negligence on the part of the promoter and a problem plagued event as the reasons for the performers’ swift exit.

While the clowns-getting-lit-up-in-broad-daylight-on-the-streets-of-TJ report that initially ran in Monday’s paper has proven to be fictitious, the truth is, Tijuana has never been kind to Los Chicharrnes. On their last tour of city in 2008, Tijuana’s most violent year, one of the Ramírez brothers was allegedly kidnapped and freed shortly thereafter, when a hefty ransom was paid.

Despite a string of bad luck here, Los Chicharrines still show the city love. In response to the fiasco, the clowns intend to make it up to Tijuana with a soon-to-be-planned free performance.

While Los Chicharrines’ next performance will be free, their offstage shows in Tijuana alone are worthy of a 100-peso price of admission. Luckily, the entertainment only requires a subscription. As the saga played out in the papers this week, it proved two simple truths. It’s always a spectacle when Los Chicharrines come to town, and it’s never a dull day in Tijuana, hands down the “most surrealist” city in the world.