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Meet the Puppet Master From Tijuana Behind ‘The Saddest Clown in Los Angeles’ Gangster Marionette, ‘El Triste’

5:39 PM PDT on October 5, 2021

photo: Erwin Recinos

[dropcap size=big]C[/dropcap]ain Carias was brought to Los Angeles when he was 13 years old from Tijuana, Mexico. He grew up in MacArthur Park. One of his first jobs out of high school was volunteering at The Bob Baker Marionette Theatre at the original location in Echo Park. After 13 years of learning the craft of puppeteering from Bob Baker himself, Cain decided to pursue his puppet master passions and goals. Working with a friend and dollmaker, Ms. Reyes Arte, Caín collaborated to create “El Triste.” 

Through the years, El Triste evolved from a doll, a puppet, to a “G-marionette” that Cain could manipulate and perform with. Cain gave El Triste the moniker, “The Saddest Clown in Los Angeles.” Cain says he created El Triste from feelings he never really explored, “I’m always happy and smiling. El Triste takes my sadness away. When I feel down, I think of El Triste, and he brightens my light again.”

In recent months, El Triste’s popularity has grown by making appearances at different events in Los Angeles, from art events to lowrider shows and meetups. El Triste’s girlfriend, La Smiley, has kept the barrio puppet master and his G-marionette busy with music videos and movie appearances. 

As Cain explains it,” El Triste is actually working now. People hire him to be a part of music videos, and he is getting me jobs.” One of those videos is “Nobody’s Clown” by Los Yesterdays, which has nearly 3 million views on Youtube. With El Triste’s popularity growing, fan art began to take over their Instagram’s DM mentions. With so much incredible art, the puppet master had a great idea of holding an art show dedicated to El Triste and La Smiley featuring all the artwork that celebrated his creations. The art show was held last weekend at El Cielito Cafe in South Gate, California. This was a once-in-a-lifetime event and showed how much these marionettes still connect to people living in deep Los Angeles communities in 2021. 

Talking with Carias, he tells L.A. TACO that there is a short film currently making the movie festival's titled “El Triste.” This short explores a journey of self-acceptance and discovery to prove El Triste is valuable and worthy of admiration. 

Keep up with El Triste by following their IG accounts @puppetmaster213, @el_triste_213, and @LA_SMILEY_213

All photos by Erwin Recinos for L.A. TACO.

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