Circus clown Jhona Zapata, whose clown name is "Jijolin," offers caramelized apples for sale during the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Zapata, 35, is selling circus food to help his family survive the economic shutdown. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
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LIMA, Peru (AP) — Circuses in Peru are built around clowns, providing work for more than 500 of the characters. But the shows have been struggling in recent years, their patrons lured away by the internet, video games and other live entertainment, and then the pandemic hit.

The coronavirus has kept millions of Peruvians locked down at home, dealing a hard blow to the hundred or so small circuses in the country.

In an empty lot in Lima, Santos Chiroque keeps the yellow tent, logs and ropes that he used until March to set up the circus that fed him and his family.

He had put money into the new tent in hopes of boosting business. “Money invested in vain,” says the 74-year-old, whose clown name is “Piojito.”

Now his wife and five children sell caramel apples on the streets of Lima in search of some coins.

At least one clown has died from the coronavirus — William Tovar in the city of Huancayo. His white coffin was painted with colored circles and six saddened clowns carried him through the streets of the city.

Other clowns are trying to adapt to the pandemic confinement. Carlos Olazábal and his four children perform children’s shows using video calls from their four-story house. His family also sells apples and salty popcorn to bring in an income.

Olazábal, who performs as “Chiquitin,” says he also had put away some money for times of crisis.

“I was not thinking of a pandemic. My fear is earthquakes,” he says, alluding to the frequent tremors that shake Peru, whose 25,648 coronavirus deaths are the third most in Latin America behind Brazil and Mexico.