One of Guadalajara's horses, many of which are going hungry. One of Guadalajara's now-hungry horses.

Carriage horses going hungry in Guadalajara

Drivers left jobless during phase-in of new electric vehicles

Horses in Guadalajara are going hungry because their carriage driver owners haven’t worked for two weeks and don’t have the means to feed them.

The drivers, known as calandrieros, have been blocked from obtaining permits to operate on the streets of the Jalisco capital because the local government is phasing out the horse-drawn carriages in favor of electric sightseeing vehicles.

Consequently, 100 horses that previously plied their trade in the tourism sector — along with scores of drivers — have been left jobless. A bank account has been set up to receive donations to help feed the animals.

“We are people who have always lived day by day . . . the account was opened on the instructions of the citizens themselves [who want] to support us,” said Rafael Méndez Barajas, general secretary of the local carriage drivers’ union.

“We really don’t have anything and we’ve maintained the horses with what [people] have been giving us. There are people who have sent us alfalfa [and] corn to give to the horses,” he added.

While some money has started flowing into the account, so far it hasn’t been enough to cover the costs of the 10 kilograms of alfalfa and four kilograms of specialized feed needed every day for each horse.

At a cost of 80 pesos per head per day, feeding 100 famished equines comes with an 8,000-peso (US $429) price tag on a daily basis.

Méndez claims that by refusing to grant new licenses to the calandrieros, authorities led by Mayor Enrique Alfaro Ramírez are trying to pressure around 75 drivers into signing agreements to become operators of the new electric cars.  The first of the new vehicles are to be phased in this month.

Only if they sign the agreement will they be granted temporary permission to continue operating their horse-drawn carriages until the new vehicles become available, he said.

Some drivers have signed already so about 12 horses are back working the streets, but others refuse to cave in to the pressure. Next week, it may not just be the horses that are going hungry.

The union leader and at least four of his fellow drivers say they will start a hunger strike Monday to demand they be allowed to get back to work.

“We almost have no food anyway, so what we’re going to do is not die in our homes but at the doors of city hall if that’s what’s necessary to show them that it’s not an exaggeration, it’s our reality,” Méndez said.

“. . . The government wants to take away our traditions to invade Guadalajara with mototaxis.”     

Donations to help feed the hungry horses can be made to the Banco Azteca account 959 613 446 488 73.

Retiring the horses is part of a commitment by the municipal government to end animal abuse.

Source: Milenio (sp), El Diario NTR (sp)

Reader forum