You might still see burros carrying heavy
loads around Cozumel. 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 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
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
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 the occasionally rugged Cozumel,
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.