‘The World Cup’: a circus family with sawdust in their veins | Culture


The adventure, full of pirouettes, caroms, winks, surprises, laughter and tears, starts in Badajoz, Extremadura. It was the late sixties and three brothers, Rafa, Fernando and José María González, took their first somersault with their parents and brothers. They all get on a train, with the life they could fit in their suitcases, to Madrid, the capital where they would all try to jump again, higher, even more difficult. The first night they slept under a bridge and, as fate would have it, they stumbled upon a clown born in Bilbao, converted into a legendary circus entrepreneur, in the Plaza del Ministerio de Cultura (Plaza del Rey), where the Price circus was located at that time. . The clown was Arturo Castilla, then manager of the circus, who gave the three jobs. Rafa and José María joined Price’s caravan; and Fernando, of great physical corpulence, put on a strongman act with which he toured half the world.

Thus begins the greatest show in the world, that of a family (González) that was born and raised by chance under a tent, with the sound of mallets on nails that anchored them, always for a short time, to the earth. Ready to dismount and embark on the next adventure, with a drum roll, without a net and with risk as a faithful companion on another journey with an uncertain destination. A family trained in making the impossible look easy. A family specialized in the art of amazement and whose latest representatives have just received the National Circus Award.

Rafael González and Loli Villanueva with their children Manuel and Rafa, in the early nineties in Barcelona.
Rafael González and Loli Villanueva with their children Manuel and Rafa, in the early nineties in Barcelona.

The González brothers founded their great brand in 1977: the Great World Circus, one of the most prestigious in the world. From Torrebruno to the clowns on TV, or Enrique and Ana, María Jesús and her accordion or the protagonists of the iconic series passed along its track. Blue summer, along with all kinds of artists and large animals turned into tender pets.

Manuel and María González with a chimpanzee in the circus.
Manuel and María González with a chimpanzee in the circus.

Today, after the death of Rafa and Fernando in January 1988 in a traffic accident on one of those trips and after many ups and downs in the life of this great family, Manuel, Rafa and María, Producers of Smiles, are Rafa’s children. and Loli Villanueva—a couple born under the Price tent—who have received the 2023 National Circus Award. The three brothers, re-editing the history of their own family, have worked for years to dignify the circus, fighting to always find a place for it. gap between the performing arts in Spain, giving it glamor and turning it into an entertainment show for all audiences, children and adults. “My challenge was not to get my friends to come with their children,” says Manuel González, the oldest of the three brothers and who has led this last stage of the family tradition. “My challenge was for my friends to come without their children,” he says.

The Circus of Horrors, associated with the clown Suso Silva (National Circus Award 2003), and Rock Circus have been his two main achievements in that sense. The González brothers, already as Producers of Smiles, their company and their brand since 2005, have chosen to professionalize the circus, establishing their offices in Madrid with 30 permanent workers. And now, almost two decades later, they have also collected the legacy (and the brand) of that circus created by their family in the 80s, the Circus Mundial, which they pay tribute in an exciting way in this latest scenic proposal that can be seen from the November 24 at the Ifema exhibition center in Madrid: Circlassica. Great World Circus.

Aside from the sawdust that, they say, runs through their veins, the González brothers have the desire to be entrepreneurial in their DNA, and they work with the determination that under their tent you can see “what cannot be seen anywhere else,” and to make what seems impossible a reality. Fatherless at a very young age, they reinvented themselves with her mother, Loli, who still accompanies them today and checks the locker rooms. Meanwhile, Manuel was a steward and manager of private flights. María, for her part, worked in advertising for big brands. Rafa, the youngest, joined his brother’s business initiatives from the beginning and has grown with him. The three form a compact and very effective team. They love each other and love the circus deeply.

Manuel González, working as a teenager in the circus office.
Manuel González, working as a teenager in the circus office.

The journey to the professionalization of the circus has been bumpy and full of curves and inventions. They brought the Rossi family circus from Italy, and partnered with Roberto Faionni and the American Circus later, in the middle they set up Cirkid, occupying the least sought-after places in Spain; and they traveled a lot—especially Manuel—to see a lot and with a single idea: “Change the circus.” They came to occupy Las Ventas in 2006, they staged Christmas at the Price for eight editions, they entered the Valencia bullring in 2007. There—as once happened to their father with Arturo Castilla—they ran into Suso Silva, and they began to redefine their Circus of Horrors together, with the artistic direction of the clown. And finally, they bought their own tent. “It was buying our freedom, we didn’t have to associate with anyone, although we had to take on a brutal logistical challenge,” Rafa remembers. It worked.

Accustomed to falling and getting up from a trapeze or an elephant; having known the job since they were children: “Carrying boards”, “doing the ticket office”, “as track porters”… Today, apart from the fixed office, they also have a mobile one: a technological caravan attached to their tent. From there they supervise all the details: from the distribution of numbers, choreography and costumes, to sponsorships. In the circus – as they remember their father, Rafa González, saying – for everything to go well, for nothing to fail, for that magic to emerge that is followed by the gigantic “oooooooooh” from the stands, there is a maxim: “In the circus you have to be.” There you will find them, making the impossible easy.

María and Rafa González Villanueva as children in the World Circus.
María and Rafa González Villanueva as children in the World Circus.

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