Big, tight-knit families tend to get together for special moments – a wedding, Thanksgiving, summer barbecues or, in a more somber vein, funerals.
And then there is the Torres family.
When they get together, death is a very real possibility. After all, they spend their time racing at each other on motorcycles at 60 mph.
The Torres family is one of the main acts in the Ringling Brother and Barnum and Bailey Circus, where they have been delighting and raising the hairs of fans for 10 years.
Their act is not unique; the cage, a circular mass of steel long known as the "Globe of Death," has been around for at least 100 years. But this group from Paraguay – of cousins, brothers and a sister – once set the world record for having eight motorcycles in a crammed 16-foot sphere.
They use whistles as one of their main cues, but in such close quarters they have, in the past, run into each other. One of the Torres brothers, Ariel, got pinned once by his bike after a collision and broke his foot, according to reports. Another was hit by a handlebar and was in a coma. But the performers dismiss these as minor injuries and say their relationship is what saves them.
“If you put friends and you put 8 bikes inside they don’t know what each other will do,” Carmen Torres-Colossa, told Fox News Latino. “We are 100 percent trust. I trust my brother, he trusts me and we know what we need to do. It’s more easy to do.”
It helps that they are a family, but it also helps that they are so well versed in motorcycles. They've raced in their native Paraguay for years. But when the oldest brothers saw a circus featuring “El Globo de La Muerte (The Globe of Death),” the pull to push their limits became irresistible.
“The South American countries are known for thrill acts,” said Vinicio Murillo, director of talent for the circus. Those acts have “not just a risk of injury but the risk of killing yourself.”
The Torres family started with just three bikes. By the time they first performed on TV in Paraguay, where they were spotted by a scout for Ringling Brothers, they were up to six, and looking to add more.
Maybe it is in their blood, said Daniel Eguino, one of the performing cousins.
“They say like it’s impossible but whatever you try, you have to try harder,” Eguino said of their act. “It’s dangerous but you can do it.”
The family jumped at the chance to travel the U.S, and, as they expanded their group, they added other members of the family, including Carmen.
“They think I am a woman and they need to be careful and they need to protect me,” Carmen said. Daniel agreed, saying that the stunt is hard but watching out for Carmen adds a certain level of difficulty – yet they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The group with four brothers, three cousins and a sister can bring in outsiders, but it’s their family ties that bring them security – both in and out of the globe.
Carmen says it’s comforting traveling the world as a family.
“When it is our day off, we do stuff with family, we have family time,” said Carmen. “[We] go see the city or go do something fun.”
And their family is growing; Carmen married the circus train master a little over two years ago.
“Can you write my name like Torres-Colossa?” asked Carmen.
Daniel groaned. Loudly.
“Oh,” Carmen teased. “You’re just jealous.”
Soni Sangha is a freelance writer based in New York City.