by Carl Hammerschlag, MD
This was the first time we were not joined by our clown relatives from Bola Roja, who built the foundation for this event. Their presence was felt and is an inspiration. This year’s amazing Belen Festival was organized and produced the Gesundheit! Team who have been working in Belen year-round over the last 2 years. Vanessa Romano, Veronica Urbieta, Merian Eyzaguierre, Hayley Shapiro, and Nati Sanchez-Rammsy, along with Lillie Huggins, Charlotte Huggins, and Cara Hodge in the U.S. Thank you for another amazing event.
We continue to provide an incredible variety of workshops, street theater, art projects, dance, music, and hospital visits. An amazing interactive theatrical installation by Talia Weinberg- “Labyrinth”, was sensational. Kate Deciccio’s outdoor mural’s continue to reach new heights, and every year they welcome us to Belen.
We marched side by side with thousands from Iquitos, in a Nationwide demonstration to Stop Violence Against Women that drew hundreds of thousands of Peruvians. We marched as usual to our own rhythm, with thousands of onlookers cheering us on.
It was the fifth year we’ve been conducting the mental health street clinic’s, and now getting requests for reappearances. This year we had more clown/mental health professionals than ever, and awarded 23 clown clinicians certification for 16 hours of clinical supervision in community mental health. This model was the inspiration for the the “Truth Clinics” that were introduced in Phoenix, Arizona, February, 2016 at the inaugural “ClownTown Healing Fest”.
The evenings featured, nights at Nikkoro’s (which is teetering but standing), the incredible talent show, a couple nights with the 3 old white guys (affectionally referred to as the “Elders”), Patch, Johnny, and Carl…who once again flapped their lips and told their stories to an audience affectionately willing to indulge them.
The magic of Belen, is the coming together of more than 100 clowns in an international, multi-generational tribal gathering, and who see in each other the things they like best about ourselves. This is an experience that replenishes our clown soul so that we can share it with our world. To all of the support organizations who come here from all over the world to make the Belen Festival happen. Thank You for sharing your gifts, and the vision. :O)
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