Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chandra Bahadur Dangi is crowned world's shortest man at just 55cm tall

Stealing the title from Philippino Junrey Balawing who stood at 60cm (23.5 inches) at the age of 18 last year, Chandra Bahadur Dangi measured in at 54.6cm (21.5inches) when he was sized-up by the Guinness World Records team.

'The good news is that Chandra Bahadur Dangi is the world's shortest living man,' Guiness Records editor-in-chief Craig Glenday declared.

'If he is really 72 years old he is the oldest person to be awarded the shortest-man record,' he added.

Dangi, who is also the shortest person ever measured by the Guinness World Record team, is from a remote part of Nepal and said he was unaware of the world record title before a timber merchant who was visiting his village measured him last month.

'I am good. I feel happy. I want to travel around the world and spread the name of my country,' he said after taking a flight for the first time to meet record officials 267km away in the capital.

Dangi and his family have no idea when he stopped growing. His village lacks basic health care and Dangi - who has five brothers and two sisters of normal size - has never visited a doctor.

Before Balawing, Nepali man Khagnedra Thapa Magar held the title at 67cm (26.4 inches) tall.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dwarf Bullfighters – Human Exploitation Meets Animal Cruelty

It sounds cruel when I write about it, but watching a bunch of dwarfs running around with calves that match their size could invoke quite a bit of laughter. There’s nothing cute about this however, the fighting is quite real and dangerous. Thankfully, the calves and the men are usually unharmed.

Wondering what I’m talking about? Meet the bullfighting dwarfs of Mexico, a group of short entertainers who are by no means ashamed of what they do. The sport, for obvious reasons, has earned the title of being one of the most controversial in the world. Animal lovers say it’s cruel. Human rights activists agree. Critics worry about stereotyping. But there’s no denying the fact that it provides a steady means of income for those who otherwise would find it very difficult to get a job. Since employment discrimination is pretty widespread in Mexico, the dwarf community has actually benefited from the bullfighting shows. More often than not, the bullfighters are laughed at, and although this is the main purpose of their act, they would also like to be respected for what they do.
While bullfighting as a sport originated in Spain, the Mexican dwarf version is no less entertaining – a heady mix of comedy and excitement. Currently, about 20 dwarf bullfighting troupes exist in Mexico and they make frequent tours across the border to the US, performing for migrant native Mexicans. The competition between troupes is pretty intense, so many of them have added attractions to the show. A group from Guadalajara sings and does impressions, while the Bullfighting Dwarfs of Torreon jump through burning hoops.The tradition of the Mexican dwarf bullfighters started way back in the 1970s. According to the manager of the Giants of the Bullring, Gustavo Vazquez, the real goal of the show is to make people see past the fact that the performers are little people. Javier Landa, another performer, says that Americans may not understand what they do. “They may think we go out there to be laughed at, but that’s not the case. If a little person can fight a bull, he can do anything. That’s what we’re trying to prove.” The dwarf matadors can make up to $100 per show, and sometimes as little as $50.

China’s Kingdom Of The Dwarves

Over 100 height-challenged Chinese people perform in a show called Kingdom Of The Dwarves, close to Kunming, Yunnan Province.

Casting for the Kingdom Of The Dwarves show took place last summer, with only two conditions stipulated: the performers had to be between 18 and 40 years old and be shorter than 130 cm (4’3″). No other special skills were required. Now they take the stage of the Kunming World Butterflies Garden twice a day, singing, dancing and performing comedy sketches to entertain the crowds.

I know it looks like exploitation and discrimination, but the short performers see it only as another form of migrant labor and a haven away from people who mock and tease them on a daily basis. With discrimination and unemployment still high in China, the little people saw the Kingdom Of The Dwarves as an opportunity.

Just to clear things up, this is just a profitable theme park, not a community formed by the dwarves themselves as a shelter, and the mushroom houses only serve as decor and changing rooms, not as living quarters.