Let me start by saying: Feria Nacional del Burro 2010 *exceeded* our expectations. Get ready for some heavy photo coverage, folks. As I mentioned on Thursday, I’d gotten wind of this Burro Festival on Twitter, and after seeing how witty their website was, I had no choice but to go. Besides, having a fond place in my heart for all farm-animals, I felt that the donkey should get its day in the sun.
And oh, how it did. We rolled into Otumba at 10:15AM this morning, after about an hour-and-15-minute drive from the middle of Mexico City. Lacking a detailed map of the Burro Festival, we were hopeful that it would become obvious where to go/park/walk, etc. Otumba had most of the main street leading into the Zocalo blocked off & lined seductively with food/beer stands and assorted vendors, so we abandoned ship in the nearby parking lot (for $30 pesos) & began exploring!
I was able to find some burro ears in time to watch the race as one of the true, committed fans.
First observation: numerous people were wearing burro ears, a burro visor, or burro hat. I instantly committed to myself that I would join this elite echelon as soon as an ear vendor was spotted. We slowly perused the merchandise while arriving in the heart of the action just in time to see the start of the Parade of Decorated Burros. I was kind of expecting donkeys wearing a hat or a cape or something lame-o. Um, no: these costumes were not screwing around. Some of my favorites follow:
This construction worker burro was well-adorned with tools, though the beers & bottle of liquor were a nice touch.
Sign reads "We join the gay family-- Ricky Marty." (Unclear if they meant Ricky Martin or if Marty was intentional.) Please note the pink eyelashes.
Emiliano Zapata, complete with pistol attached to side of business trousers + shoes.
One of my favorites, the Tourist Burro. Note that his fur has been painted white, he is wearing sneakers, he has blond hair, a sun visor, a camera dangling from his neck, and a cell phone hanging off his shorts. Brilliant.
Miguel Hidalgo's burro replica. Best part of this, besides the white wig he's wearing & the Virgen poster reading "Viva Guadalupe"? The little kid walking alongside wearing a fake mustache.
Uh, a "Zebra and Peacock". Led by the donkey from Shrek. Don't ask questions, people.
This one was slightly horrifying, but innovative nonetheless. You can't see "Burricornio's" full horn, but just trust me that he is a Unicorn Burro. (or at least that is how I prefer to think of him, rather than a donkey who's been tarred and feathered. After all, I'm sure that glue is organic?)
Happily-wedded burros. I just liked the expression on the face of the right burro. But maybe that's just the effect of her wig & lipstick. Yes, that's right: lipstick.
Can I just say-- that is a bigggg man who was wearing those jeans before this burro was.
After the parade ended, we were a little unclear as to what was next on the agenda (since surprisingly, things didn’t appear to be adhering tightly to the schedule we’d printed off the website). So we did some shopping to kill time.
Yes! You can get a burro-shaped keychain with (assumably) burro fur on it AND your name engraved on the back so you don't lose it-- all for only $10 pesos!! (aka ~80 cents)
Visiting co-worker Tim purchased this sweet burro visor with Otumba emblazoned on each ear.
We also saw this man selling a "lesser" burro ear visor during the parade. (You can see the Pippi Longstocking burro in the background.)
One thing we did NOT purchase was bunnies from the several-dozen bunny-selling cages scattered around the event. Apparently they cost a mere two pesos. (As the sign says, Although you won't believe it, with only 2 pesos you can take with you a pretty pet.) Saaad. (Though based on the number of food stands selling rabbit, we later deduced that these are perhaps a "pet that transitions into dinner" type of investment.)
For the more artistically inclined, burro wall decor was also available for sale.
Of course it wouldn't be Mexico if the guest of honor's likeness was not made into a piñata.
I'm not even really sure what this dangling head is promoting, but I just want to point out that John totally initiated this photo on his own-- no peer pressuring was involved on this one (for a change).
Finally, we heard an alert that it was time for the Burro Races!! This was confirmed when we observed the stringing of suuuuper strong yellow rope in front of the spectators who were lining the street around the zocalo. We noted with a mixture of amusement and concern how it was virtually impossible that a burro could penetrate this impressive barrier:
Burro Rope Barricade: another excellent "what could go wrong" example. Also note the two children wearing donkey tails.
We managed to squeeze ourselves in among the throngs of spectators in a spot along the straightaway. This seemed safer than near the 90-degree corners the burros would be required to maneuver 4 times to go around the entire zocalo.
Earlier, we captured this photo of the bleachers surrounding the start/finish of the burro race. As you can see, one must arrive early to get the premier seats for the festivities.
One of the race contestants storms down the straightaway, "riding crop" in hand.
This dude is *barely* hanging on to the rear of this burro. We didn't have a clear line of sight, but we're pretty sure he fell off while trying to make the 90-degree turn at full gallop.
After watching a few heats of the races, we wandered through the courtyard surrounding the large church just off the zocalo. The courtyard had some impressive topiaries.
Pigeon and Burrogirl. Still life, circa 2010.
This got us inspired to take our photo with real, live animals.
This un-manned donkey was a safe bet for a free photo to capture the theme of the day.
John had to pay for a photo with Mr. Brahma Bull, but it was well worth it. This guy was massive.
Emily also got in on the Brahma excitement.
After the burro-viewing & photo opps, we debated whether to participate in any of the carnival rides.
This one was simply too depressing. Poor horsies get their noses put to the grindstone while their burro brethren are off being lauded & cooed over.
Although this "Giant Claw of Death" ride looked exciting....
.... I saw one too many ride structures jacked up on pieces of wood (many less stable-looking than this) to manage to convince myself to jump on.
Finally, it was time for some lunch. Luckily, there was no shortage of establishments to choose from that were busily pumping out amazing grilled meat smells.
We plopped down at some street stall, and ended up with this amazing array of chicken, rabbit, goat, guac, onions, salsas and beers on our table. Everything was fantastic.
While we were eating, we flagged down this passing vendor selling these "I love Otumba" t-shirts. John translated the t-shirt as "I love ass", but the rest of us disagreed. Our group of 4 people purchased 6 shirts in total.
Recall my previous "rabbits: from playmate to plate" comment? Well, here are a few examples a bit closer to the "plate" side of the equation.
There was no shortage of pulque drinking opportunities at the Festival...
Including this pulque offering from the back of an SUV!
At this point, we felt like we’d seen the bulk of what we’d come to see. We also felt we’d injected as much of a financial boost to Otumba as possible, each of us having purchased no fewer than probably 6 items between food/beverages/souvenirs. It was time to leave our friends, the burros of Otumba, and return to Mexico City.
On the way out, we made a quick pitstop to snag a Pigcajete that we’d seen on the drive in but clearly couldn’t stop for at that point (and risk missing the fashion show?? I think not!). Pigcajetes, for those of you not in the know, are molcajetes shaped like pigs.
These stacks of Pigcajetes on the side of the road were a principle buy if I ever saw one.
Upon our arrival home, we realized we’d purchased a slightly awkward number of burro-themed items.
Our proud purchases: burro keychains, burro ears, Pigcajete, I love Otumba/ass t-shirt, BurroFest shot glass, and two hats that fold up flat.
In summary, the Feria Nacional del Burro was a wild success. Possibly one of the most entertaining celebrations I’ve been to in our two years in Mexico. John even agreed that it ranked highly, and that’s saying something. Definitely mark your calendars for next year’s Mexican Labor Day (May 1st), which should keep you apprised of the 2011 festival. In fact that day was chosen specifically to recognize the burros who do all the hard work for the rest of us! And I’d like to give a special shout-out to the town of Otumba in Estado de Mexico for putting together quite the array of burro-oriented activities, carnival rides, unique shopping, food & drink. Way to go Otumba, and way to go burros.