A city in the State of México could well be on its way to becoming the donkey capital of the world, given the esteem in which the animals are held and the care they are given.
Otumba is the home of the 2.5-hectare Burrolandia México ranch, whose purpose is to offer a sanctuary for the animals — rescued from the slaughterhouse or donated by people who couldn’t give them proper care — while at the same time preserving their history.
The ranch was founded in 2006 by Otumba native Germán Flores Sauza, who has made the protection and conservation of donkeys his life work.
Burrolandia currently has a population of 30 burros, half of which have been bred on the ranch premises.
“They’re in wide, open spaces, free to run and graze. We provide proper feeding and veterinary care for them and love each one of them as another member of the family,” said Flores.
Otumba has long been known as the birthplace of donkeys, a claim to fame popularized by a 1970s movie starring Mexican actress La India María. Flores first heard the term burrolandia, land of the donkeys, when he was very young.
Today he is committed to raising awareness about the work animals, longtime companions of humankind, with his ranch, which has a museum, coffee shop, inn and souvenir store.
The use of donkeys for farm labor has been in steady decline, but in states like Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, said Flores, they’re still commonly used “in unprotected conditions.”
“[Donkeys] are completely unprotected throughout the country, suffering constant abuse, bringing the species to the brink of extinction [in Mexico]. They’re regarded as an unproductive livestock breed, worth less than a sheep or a pig.”
The feed and other minor expenses of the ranch are covered by the entrance fees paid by visitors, but to keep his donkey sanctuary going, Flores has to chip in funds from his automotive dealership.
His commitment is not rare for Otumba, where during the last week of April each year the town hosts the National Donkey Fair.
Locals celebrate the hardworking animals with races, polo tournaments and even a costume contest.
During this year’s fair, the 51st, 31 donkeys competed in the latter event, and the most popular was the de facto Republican presidential candidate in the United States, Donald J. Trump. Four contestants attired in yellow manes of hair earned both cheers and insults from the audience at the Burrodrómo, an arena built to host the festivities.
In the end, based on the crowd’s applause, the winner was “Smurf Burro.” None of the Trump donkeys even placed.