The donkey-zebra, an icon that does not want to be forgotten

When you think about the zebra-donkeys, the image of tourists with dark glasses and hats immediately arrives on top of a cart led by the little white equine wearing artificial black stripes.

This picture, which has not been seen in recent months due to the pandemic because it is not an essential activity, seemed less common since before the health crisis that caused the Covid-19.
They are about two thousand pesos per month, according to Alejandro Sandoval, president of the donkey-zebra guild on Avenida Revolución.

"The pandemic, the closure of the border, put us in a very difficult situation. Some went to work in restaurants that they already opened making home deliveries. Others on Avenida Revolución seeing what is offered to some of the locals to be able to get through the day. They're on the hook, "he said.

"Of course, the donkey does not lack food or water: he has been the boss of us. Without the donkey, how do we work?" Added Sandoval, who is part of the 15 donkey-zebra owners.

Some tourists prefer to take a photo with their cell phone and give them a tip. Archive | OEM
Of these, nine hope to return to Avenida Revolución and the rest do not leave due to lack of money to buy the cart or the donkey.

But the pandemic only ended up exacerbating a problem that comes from a long time ago, Sandoval continued, because the ease of taking photographs with cell phones played a determining role.

"The arrival of technology affected us a lot because many people do not want photography, they just want to take their cell phone and give a tip, a tip. They do not see it as a job, they look at it as someone who is on the street and They give us 10 pesos or a dollar. Long before the technology was there, it was much better, everyone wanted photography, "he said.

The average cost for taking a 6x8 portrait on the donkey-zebra is 10 dollars (around 200 pesos), however, they have had to adapt other rates when taking it with a mobile device, charging from one to five dollars , depending on the size of the group.

The first records of a photograph with a donkey-zebra date back to 1914, without that date having meant the emergence of what would become an icon of the city, said Josué Beltrán Cortez, coordinator of the Historical Archive of Tijuana, who mentions that in the growth of the city this tourist attraction played an important role.

"The middle class gave birth to tourism, who, eager to go out, walk, have fun, go to know, needed to bring evidence of the place where they were, evidence of the encounter with the exotic, with the different upon their return home. And photography made it easier ",
Foreign tourists hoped to find in Tijuana a traditional Mexico like the one in the center or south of the country, so merchants built the image of the donkey-zebra, accompanied by a palm hat and a serape, to imitate the Mexican stereotype, the historian narrated. .

"Due to the technology of the time of the beginning of the 20th century and the color pigmentation of donkeys, they did not appear in photography ... The traveling and studio photographers carried out a thousand experiments such as replacing the donkey with goats, bighorn sheep, even someone thought to paint it with black and white lines. Tourists liked it and the donkey-zebra was born, "added the historian.

For decades the tourist popularity of Tijuana grew as did the donkey-zebra, to the extent that in the 60s and 70s they were found 24 hours a day on Avenida Revolución, as investigated by Beltrán Cortez.

"Each licensee was working eight-hour shifts with three different donkeys in each corner of the first avenue to the ninth avenue," he stresses.

That scenario where there was a lot of work changed drastically after the fall of the 'twin towers' in New York, and there were no longer dozens of donkeys, but only a few well-to-do not beyond Sixth Street.

But the reduction of tourists was not the only challenge that the owners of the donkey-zebra had to face. Protests by groups in favor of animal rights also arose, causing doubts and even rejection of this activity in some sectors of society.
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