Colombia waiter transforms into street artist to support family

World Today

In Colombia, unemployment has topped 9 percent in recent months. Many are forced to find creative ways to make a living. CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports on one man who transformed himself from a waiter into a street performer.

Colombian Luis Rene Cruz wasn’t making enough money as a waiter to sustain his family, so he decided he had to dream big just like people do in the movies.  

“Crisis brings great ideas, and that was why I decided to build something different,” he said.

Cruz took an idea from the popular U.S. movie franchise, Transformers, and made it into a reality. With $200 U.S. dollars in savings, and three months of his time, he created a Transformer costume out of cardboard boxes, paint, screws, silicone and a mask. Then he took his one-man show to the streets of Bogota, entertaining passing motorists and pedestrians. As commuters wait  impatiently for the red light to change, Cruz provides a bit of comic relief to their daily commute.  

“There are people with a serious face and when I talk to them in my robotic voice, they smile and laugh,” he said. “I help them, and they help my day with their tip.”

Those tips add up to around $13 U.S. dollars a day during weekdays, double that on the weekends. This is enough to keep food on the table for his wife, his two children and his mother.

“The minimum wage isn’t enough to support my family,” he said. “At least my Transformer performance gives me a little more than the minimum wage. It also gives me something even more valuable — the opportunity to spend time with my children and my wife.”

But competition on the street is fierce said Cruz. There are artists, street vendors, and more recently, a wave of Venezuelan immigrants asking for help at traffic lights. They brave the heat, the cold, the rain, and also the long hours, to bring money home. After eight years and several health scares, including cancer, Cruz continues his work. After building a total of five Transformer costumes, he now has bigger dreams.

“I want to buy a home,” he said. “I want to reach old age with my mother and wife, and say we have a place to rest in peace.”

Cruz said he undergoes an average of 1,200 transformations a month, in the hope of transforming his family’s dreams into reality.