Page 19                                            Summer 1995

Starting Young, Staying Strong



The IJA's 1995 Historical Achievement Award winner, Rudy Cardenas, has juggled for almost 60 years. Now semi-retired and living in Las Vegas with his wife, Joy, the affable and self-assured Mexican native talked about his illustrious career in a series of conversations with Juggler's World.


I was born in Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, on March 19, 1931. My father was Domingo, and my mother, Rebecca. My mother's side of the family, the Suarez family, had always been circus people in Mexico. My father was from a well-to-do family and he was in university studying to become an engineer. But he was very good at gymnastics, and put an act together to work with the circus during vacations. He met my mother, they fell in love, and he stayed.


The main family act through the generations was horses. My grandfather used to juggle on the horse and do foot juggling. My sisters were very good wire walkers. I learned to walk the wire, but I was as bad at that as I was good at juggling, so I didn't pursue it. I was juggling three balls by the time I was three. It was very easy for me since all my family juggled. It was just something you did, not something you learned.


The first time I was in an act was with my sisters, Ophelia and Esther. One would take the others legs and hold her like a wheelbarrow. The one who was being held had her hands on a small wheel that rolled along the rope. Then they put me in a basket swinging underneath the wheel. They moved to the middle of the wire, and then I juggled three balls while I sat in the basket.


I was an assistant in my grandfather's foot juggling routine in the first act I remember anything about. He manipulated a model battleship with his feet, and I was hidden inside that boat! At the end he would give me the signal, I would pull ropes and the boat would open up. Firecrackers would go off and I would stand up and wave the Mexican flag. But one time I fell asleep, and grandfather decided it was not the job for me anymore.

Rudy Cardenas
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