PAYSANDU, Uruguay – The bus stop at the corner of Montevideo and Sarandi Streets is the starting point of a humorous presentation of the history of the northwestern Uruguayan city of Paysandu by a theater group on a bus, whose actors offer local and foreign visitors entertainment on the road.
The show promoted by the Paysandu city government is called “Bus Imagine,” which during a two-hour ride visits some of the principal historical and cultural sites of this city that borders on the Argentine cities of Colon and Concepcion del Uruguay in Entre Rios province.
The ride around town starts off at the Municipal Market, where before getting on the bus, the artists of the “Imagine Theater” group advise the public of the only two “rules and conditions” they must observe, which are: “smile and applaud.”
The bus then heads for its first stop, the Municipal Cemetery, and on the way the artists enact a story in which the tourist guide is “possessed by the devil himself,” who rips her from her role as host and puts her to work for her own selfish benefit, a representation of Egotism.
As the tour progresses, other characters come forth playing the parts of capital sins, which in the cases of Gluttony and Greed are represented by two musicians who organize a union against the working conditions imposed by the tourism firm they work for.
However, both succumb to an “infallible proposal” by the Prince of Darkness, who leads them to sign a contract to surrender their souls and become his laborers.
The next stop is the Florencio Sanchez Theater, one of the principal sites of historical heritage of this city founded in 1860.
It is here the public finally enjoys the outcome of the story, in which, thanks to a friend, who manages not to fall into the claws of the devil and continues to flee the evil one until he is able to deliver his buddies from “the curse.”
From traditional music to political campaign slogans, the artists sarcastically enliven the trip to other points in the city until they finally reach the shut-down textile firm Paylana, one of the main sources of jobs in 1940s and 1950s.
Here the artists leave their jokes and acting aside, and with great emotion tell the audience their anecdotes as relatives of the laborers who worked in that company, aided by an audiovisual presentation that illustrates the history of the place.
Upon their return to the Municipal Market amid music and song, the hosts invite the public to dance to traditional sounds, which gives the occasion the very special seal of the region’s inhabitants: friendliness.
The assistant director of Tourism of the Paysandu city government, Juan Andres Pardo, told EFE that the bus ride has been offered for three years and that during Tourism Week (Holy Week) there are four a day for the purpose of attracting greater participation by local and foreign visitors.
“Those actors make it a lot of fun, all very easygoing, and people are entertained, they laugh and the whole tour is enjoyable, but at the same time it tells you a lot about our history,” he said.
He added that when it’s holiday time, “basically Argentine tourists” visit this city to enjoy the tour, as do a rather smaller number of Europeans.