You'll still see burros carrying heavy loads
in Puerto Vallarta. For some of their handlers, it's merely
a tradition and a tight grip on a long-held belief that beasts
of burden are more reliable and less expensive than modern trucks.
But in the steep hills that surround Puerto
Vallarta, a burro is often the only 'device' that can safely
and efficiently carry heavy loads up slippery slopes while
building a house before the roads are complete. They can also
carry loads up staircases and ramps that otherwise would require
long and difficult man-hours.
sturdy animals also are able to navigate to and from the several
rivers to harvest clean sand for building. With all the beaches
in town, you might wonder why this is an issue, but beach
sand contains salt from the sea, which makes a very poor concrete
mix. So don't be surprised when you see a few burros getting
loaded up with sand by the river, on its way to a building
site which isn't yet accessible to trucks.
Burros used to be a way of life for Mexico
in cities, towns, and farms, but this has been changing. "There
used to be 50 in every town. Now there is one, if that,"
said Nicolas Vazquez Ortega, a ranch manager. "Before
you used to see packs of mules and donkeys in the fields when
you were driving along the road. Now they are disappearing."
Although it seems as improbable as Hawaii
running out of pineapples, Mexico has a shortage of donkeys.
As farmers abandon the countryside for big cities, move to
the United States or shift to tractors and cargo trucks, burros
-- long a backbone of Mexican agriculture and a symbol of
Mexican life -- have become increasingly scarce.
This trend has so alarmed officials in Jalisco,
one of Mexico's most important agricultural states, that they
are planning to import donkeys from Kentucky to revive the
dwindling population. The project, they said, will bring economic
benefits to ailing rural areas, where many poor farmers still
depend on beasts of burden.
first brought to Mexico by conquering Spaniards at the turn
of the 16th century, have long been a stereotype of rural
Mexican life. Even today, said Martin Martinez Cervantes,
a Jalisco rural development official, some tourists still
expect to find "every Mexican riding a donkey."
But those days are gone. In fact, many farmers
have shunned donkeys because of their negative association
with poverty and backwardness, officials said. Now, as the
animals have started disappearing, people are "realizing
their importance," Martinez said.
Both donkeys, known as burros throughout
Mexico, and mules, produced by cross-breeding horses and donkeys,
have gained belated respect as their numbers have diminished.
Farmers say they cause less damage than machines amid the
tight rows of blue agave, the spike-leaved plants that produce
tequila. Coffee growers in other states say they get better
traction than trucks on highland slopes. In many remote areas
with no roads, they are still the only ride home. And here
in Puerto Vallarta, surrounded by mountains, the loyal burro
still finds plenty of work.
The animals provide a stable living for their
owners, and after working for 10 or so years, are usually
'semi-retired' from daily toil, and they live out their years
in relative relaxation. A few get dressed up and shown off
in town for parades and fiestas, and a particular beauty can
be found almost daily on Insurgentes Street, across from the
flea market or next to the HSBC bank, waiting for you to visit and have a picture taken.