On the morning of May 30, 2023, Cain Carias woke up and noticed that his car had disappeared, along with his three beloved puppets, the famous El Triste, La Smiley and Little Mr. E. 

After hours of looking around the streets of his neighborhood in East Hollywood, and asking his neighbors for any type of information, Carias, with the help of his girlfriend, Mayra Plascencia, decided to report his red 2003 Honda Civic as stolen to the Los Angeles Police Department.

“I went around in circles to look for the car,” Carias said. Unfortunately, his neighbors’ home cameras, which might have helped him figure out what happened in the middle of the night, were not useful. “My neighbors’ cameras were not working,” he said, making it harder for him to figure out any leads about the location of his car and his puppets.

Original police report. Provides by Mayra Plascensia.

The LAPD told Carias and Plascencia that they would start an investigation, but if they located the car before they did, they would need to notify the police.

When Carin and Plascecia left the police station, their priority was to find the puppets as soon as possible. They logged in to El Triste and La Smiley’s Instagram pages to let their followers know that the three puppets were stolen and that they needed their help to find them. 

“I was more worried about my puppets than the car,” Carias said. “The puppets are my life.”

After decades of being a puppeteer and inspired by the person who once trained him, the late puppet master Bob Baker and the late famous Mexican clown, Cepillin, about four years ago Carias designed El Triste with the help of Monserrat Reyes, a Mexican-American artist and creator of “LILGDOLLS.” Carias also created La Smiley, and his most recent puppet, Little Mister E.

El Triste and Cain Carias. Photo provide by Carias.

Ever since he migrated to Los Angeles at the age of 13, from Tijuana, Baja California, Carias has had different jobs, but he also gives himself the time to practice his passion in life as a puppeteer. 

“People and companies hire me to go with my puppets to their events,” Carias said. “I don’t have a show or a performance with my puppets; I only dance them.”

During the last few years, El Triste and the other puppets have gained relevance not only on the streets of Los Angeles but also on social media and the Latino community. Many people have tattoos of El Triste’s face on their skin, and they even dress up like him.

“He is his own character, not a reflection of me,” Carias said. “Now people know me for my puppets.”

Today, more than a thousand people on social media follow and like the art that Carias does with El Triste and the other puppets. They have appeared in local protests supporting the street vendors of Los Angeles, at private parties and even in music videos like “Nobody’s Clown” from Los Yesterdays.

The puppet couple of “El-Triste”and “La Smiley\,” are well recognized in LA. Picture provided by Carias.

Carias explained how every time he takes his puppets to an event or to the streets, he notices how people smile as soon as they see El Triste. 

“El Triste absorbs people’s sadness away,” Carias said. “Homeless, gangsters, everyone transforms into children when they see my puppets.”  

It didn’t take too long for El Triste’s followers to start reacting and sharing about their favorite puppet. The news got the audience’s attention so fast that people started to spread the picture of the car and the three stolen puppets.

“I didn’t know the news would go viral,” Carias said.

Carin and Plascencia received many messages, but there were two that caught their attention because they had information about the possibility of having seen the car. 

“At first, I didn’t believe it was the right car until one of the followers’ video called me,” Plascencia said.

During the video call that Plascencia had with one of the followers, she could confirm that Carias’ stolen car was at the exit of the 101 freeway, close to Vermont Avenue and Rosewood Avenue.

When Carias and Plascencia arrived at the location where they were notified the car had been left, they noticed that the highway patrol had notified a towing truck company to remove the car from the freeway. 

Carias and Plascencia headed to the place where the car was taken. After arriving, they confirmed that it was Caria’s car and felt relief when they found the three puppets in the back seat just as Caria left them.

According to Plascencia, the police closed the case and took it off the system after the highway patrol informed the police station that the car had been towed away. The investigation did not go further to find out who could possibly be responsible.  

Although they had to pay $300 in order to get the car back and the car did not work anymore,  Carias was surprised and very happy that the puppets did not suffer any damage. 

Carias explained that if the puppets had any damage, it could cost him between $500 and $800 to repair them, but there is nothing that could replace any of his puppets.

Therefore, Plascencia had the idea of creating a GoFundMe account to receive donations from whoever would like to support Caria’s coming creations. Carias has started to work on a project and is now building small prototypes of El Triste, a version of the puppet that people can buy to have at home. 

Cain Carias and Mayra Plascencia holding El Triste and La Smiley. Picture provided by Carias.

Once the three puppets returned to Carias, he took the time to thank all of El Triste, La Smiley, and Little Mr. E’s followers who supported and helped him find his beloved puppets, and sent them a message on Instagram.

“I’m beyond happy and honored that the whole world is helping me. The puppets are back at my house.” Carias said. “Without you guys, none of this could be possible. Thank you so much for the support.”

Annais Garcia is a Mexican-American journalist. At CALÓ NEWS Garcia covers social justice, health, care, and education. She graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hills. Garcia was also...