Photographs: Under the Big Top Popular Mexican circus brings smiles to Salinas


Story and photos by Carlos Rene Castro

After a very long pandemic pause, the circus came back to Salinas. Circo Hermanos Caballero, a traveling circus from Guadalajara, recently brought everything from flying trapeze acts to a popular clown who impersonated mariachi legend Vicente Fernandez to Northridge Mall for a three-week run. 

The family-run circus encompasses three generations of the Caballero family and has been entertaining audiences for more than 65 years.

After their stop on the Central Coast, which ended May 10, the performers packed up and moved their tents to the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo.

“We bring the traditional circus … the circus has not changed, the circus is still trapeze artists, acrobats, jugglers, everything that the world of the circus contains,” said owner Ruben Caballero.

During the pandemic, the circus was stuck in limbo at a parking lot in South El Monte for 15 months.  

Now, Circo Hermanos Caballero is constantly on the road, touring throughout California and bringing smiles to the faces of families.

Sixth-generation Chilean circus performer and clown Rafael Isaac Maluenda Flores, better known by his clown name Tuty Fruty, is the main attraction of the show and is considered one of the best clowns in the world.

Tuty Fruty was born into the Maluenda family from Chile, which dates back to generations of talented circus performers. Maluenda was first fully dressed in a clown costume at age 2. A few years later, he was performing for the very first time at his uncle’s circus. 

“There are many wonderful things about being a clown. The public’s affection for children. When the show ends, the children congratulate you,” said Maluenda. 

The charismatic clown said that the start of the pandemic was smooth, but things slowly started to get rocky as time went on.

“Resting a bit was easy at the beginning, the first two or three months,” said Maluenda. “After four or five months, I began to feel despair.” 

Plans for the future? Maluenda is determined to improve his craft and learn new skills. 

“My closest dream is to improve myself as a clown, learn more, learn new routines, learn new shows, be able to travel or perform at some types of festivals that have invited me.”

For more information about Circo Hermanos Caballero and their upcoming shows, visit

FEATURED IMAGE | Brazilian circus performer Jualina Knauber practicing a new routine.

Have something to say about this story? Send us a letter.



About Carlos Rene Castro

Carlos Rene Castro was born in Honduras and has lived in Salinas since he was five. A graduate of Alisal High, his photography has been featured in solo exhibits in Salinas and Los Angeles. He's also a graduate of the youth summer journalism program that's been held in Salinas since 2017.