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The Burros are Back!!

Some things are so important to alert my readers to that I have to emerge from my 2-month blog hibernation to do so.  Any guesses what could possibly make that exclusive priority list? The Feria Nacional del Burro, of course!!

For any readers who had the misfortune of missing my live coverage from the National Donkey Fair 2010, rest assured that you can review both the emotional buildup to the event and the actual event here. Even though I knew it was unlikely that I would be able to attend Otumba’s premier annual tourist draw this year, I have been trying to monitor the innerwebs for further details to share with my many friends in Mexico City who will surely be dying to go. I was almost sidetracked from this quest by starting a new job (yipee!), but it appears I uncovered this year’s DonkeyFest just in time!!

You can review the full agenda for the 2011 Feria Nacional del Burro here. My instinct says that the day to go is this Sunday, May 1st, as that is the day of both the carnival & the burro races, as well as some burro polo. Sunday is the last day of the festival, and I have to say, all the other festival days seem heavy on bands/dance troupes and light on DONKEYS DRESSED LIKE AN AMERICAN TOURIST.  So choose your day wisely. Furthermore, do not dally or foolishly sleep in on Sunday– the good events (i.e. the burro polo) start at 10AM, and it will take you around an hour to get to Otumba from Mexico City.

The website http://otumbariam.wordpress.com/ appears to be the source of info for this year’s gathering (and they are also twittering up a storm). While it is not as witty as their now-defunct website from the 2010 event, I am going to give the Feria Nacional del Burro organizers the benefit of the doubt– surely they’ve chosen to invest their hilarity/sarcasm in donkey costumes rather than html coders. The below poster with a donkey in a frame also bodes well:

How could this event possibly disappoint you??

If you’re uncertain on how to get to Otumba, check out the ever-reliable Google Maps, or hire a taxi– Otumba is just a bit past the pyramids (a.k.a. Teotihuacan). I reckon you could negotiate a <$1000-peso rate for a taxi for the day. Once you arrive in town, just follow the braying & the clip-clopping of delicate hooves.

While I wither away this weekend in the donkey-less capital of Mexico’s northern neighbor, I am going to be relying on my faithful readers in DF to allow me to live vicariously through you. Please, report back on how the Feria has grown to be bigger & better than ever. Get your photo taken on a brahma bull. Purchase an inordinate amount of burro-themed crap. Adorn yourself in burro ears. I will be awaiting word. :)

What is the Best Festival EVER in Mexico? Ask the burros!!

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.)

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. :)

No Weekend Plans? How about the BURRO FESTIVAL??!?

Trying to keep up with the young hipsters of today, I created a Twitter account several months back & vaguely monitor my fellow “Twitteros” (as they are called here in Mexico). While parsing through Twitter’s mountain of 140-character data bursts is truly a “diamond in the rough” kind of situation, every now and then I come across a piece of information that makes it all worthwhile. This happened to me yesterday courtesy http://twitter.com/mexdesconocido.

While one might not instinctively click on a tweet reading “Feria Nacional del Burro 2010, en Otumba, Estado de México. http://bit.ly/dCv4U8“, two things about it appealed to me:

  1. Estado de Mexico (the state that surrounds much of DF) is within driving distance, so I could actually drive to a festival there, in the thriving metropolis of Otumba.
  2. The Festival is celebrating BURROS (a.k.a. donkeys), and it’s a NATIONAL event, meaning these burros must really be important.

Mexico Desconicido (translation: Unknown Mexico) is a magazine + website in Spanish that offers a general guide to Mexico travel & tourism, and as the name would imply, does a good job covering things slightly off the beaten track. (FYI, the print magazine is much easier to read & has better visuals than the text-heavy articles on the website.) Even if your Spanish isn’t great, it has pretty useful data & lots of pics in the mag version.

What about this image doesn't promise that you are going to have some fun times??

Its online article regarding the Burro Fair was pretty good, but it left me wanting more. Especially after I saw this fantastic logo (right). So, I was off! To the innerwebs!

The innerwebs led me here: http://feriadelburro-2010.ololiuqui.net, and this brings me to the reasons I am blogging about this today. One reason is to make you aware of this fascinating burro event that we are SOOOO going to on Saturday. But the OTHER reason is to show you possibly the most sarcasm-filled website that appears to be (possibly) sanctioned by Mexican government I’ve seen in Mexico. (I haven’t encountered nearly as many ironic/sarcastic publications as I would like here in DF.)

First, let me highlight the bests parts of Saturday’s agenda (as I understand it):

  • 9AM: Presentation of the Queen of the 45th Burro Festival
  • 10AM: Burro Polo.  Location? the burrodromo. ha! of course!
  • 11AM: Grand Carnival of Decorated Burros
  • 12PM: Exciting Burro Races: Formula 1 and Formula 2.
  • and more!!

That was enough to get me excited. But the good stuff really comes in the “Convocatoria” section (announcement or call) where they outline the rules, prizes, etc. (If you want to see some of them translated into English, use Google Translate & check the “Historia” page here.) If I may list a few:

  • Ningun burro participante podrá hacer campagña politica a favor de sus candidatos a Presidentes de la Republica ni Gobernadores.
    • No burro participant will be able to do political campaigning in favor of its Presidential or Governor candidates.
  • Ningún burro con problemas de alcoholismo y drogadicción podrán participar, porque existirá el alcoholímetro.
    • No burro with problems of alcoholism or drug addiction will be able to participate, this is why there will be a Breathalyzer.
  • Se prohibe competir a burros con motores arreglados con propulsión a chorro y pezuñas anchas.
    • It is prohibited for burros to compete with souped-up motors with jet engines and wide hooves.
  • Ningún burro deberá ser analfabeta.
    • No burro should be illiterate.
  • Para evitar contagio de influenza deberá todo burro porta cubre-hocico
    • In order to avoid contagion of influenza, all burros should wear a muzzle-cover. [ala the face masks of swine flu days gone by…]
  • Los burros que atenten contra los derechos humanos no podrán entrar a Burrolandia
    • Burros that threaten against human rights will not be able to enter Burrolandia.

Previous years’ rules included:

  • Aquel burro que desee competir con patines de hielo, no podrá hacerlo en esta carrera, pero podrá competir en nuestros juegos de invierno en burrolake el próximo mes de diciembre (inscripciones abiertas).
    • Any burro that desires to compete with ice skates won’t be able to do it in this race, but will be able to compete in our winter games in Burrolake next December (open enrollment).
  • Los burros que den asilo al ex Sha de Irán, no podrán participar en estos eventos especiales.
    • Burros that give asylum to the ex-Shah of Iran will not be able to participate in these special events.
  • Los burros Ayatolenses serán aceptados en igual número de rehenes que sean liberados.
    • Ayatolan burros will be accepted in equal number as # of hostages released.
  • Los burros braceros de otros países no se admitirán ni en el desfile, ni en la carrera.
    • Burro laborers from other countries will not be admitted to either the parade or the race.

In section outlining rules for participation, the slogan appears to be: “Tienes burro, que esperas?” (which I believe could translate as either “You have a burro, what are you waiting for?”, or “Do you have a burro, then what are you waiting for?”)  :)  The prizes for the Burro Polo and Decorated Burros competitions are actually quite respectable– $5,000 pesos for 1st place in the race and $8,000 pesos for the best-dressed!!

Anyway, this is all so droll that I can hardly believe it is a real event (in which case both the town of Otumba and Mexico Desconocido will receive a sternly worded letter from me on Sunday). I am going to keep my hopes up for the moment.  And local readers, please advise if I should keep an eye out for you Saturday morning at the one, the only, the 2010 NATIONAL BURRO FESTIVAL!!! Yeah!!!!

Malinalco with the visiting Nebraskans

Larry & Marcia came for a Mexico visit-- look how happy & unconcerned about violence they are!! ;)

Larry & Marcia came for a Mexico visit-- look how happy & unconcerned about violence they are!! ;)

My parents from Nebraska came for a visit last month, so we decided to show them some of rural Mexico in addition to the Big Taco, D.F.  We spent a couple nights in Malinalco, located roughly 40 miles south-ish of Toluca or 60 miles (but ~2 hours) from Polanco in Mexico City.

A view of the valley of Malinalco from above

A view of the valley of Malinalco from above

Malinalco is a cute little town in a gorgeous valley that has a small archaeological site that overlooks the town from the mountainside. I would assess it as a great place for a relaxing 1-2 night stay if you’re looking to lounge about in nice, warm weather. If you are a “dooo-sy” type person, meaning someone who needs constant stimulation & multiple sites to see & activities to do, Malinalco may not be the place for you. :)

After much research on lodging, we decided to stay at Casa Mora, a fantastic B&B located just east of the main “downtown” of Malinalco. While you could walk from there to the Centro, it is a bit of a trek, partially on a dirt road, that I would imagine getting a bit toasty during the midday sun. We generally opted to drive & had no issue finding parking within a few blocks of the restaurant/archaeological site/museum area.

View of pool & backyard at Casa Mora in Malinalco

View of pool & backyard at Casa Mora in Malinalco

I completely recommmend Casa Mora, a 5-room B&B purpose-built by artist Raul Mora. The grounds/common areas are lovely, rooms airy & spacious, bathrooms modern & convenient, and pool warm & beckoning! The breakfasts are served family style with fresh-squeezed OJ, fruit, pan dulce, frijoles, a different hot dish each day, and what appeared to be real coffee (unlike the popular instant coffee so pervasive throughout Mexico!). Two honor bars, one near the pool & one in the house’s living room, offer tasty beverages to quench your thirst. And the gorgeous green yard was a perfect venue for lying on a chair with a book. During our trip, the rooms were $2000 pesos a night (inclusive of breakfast & all taxes), so although it is not a cheap option, we felt we definitely got our money’s worth. The staff were all excellent & friendly, and very responsive to our email inquiries prior to arrival (unlike other venues in town that we attempted to look into). For non-Spanish speakers, Raul speaks flawless English so you don’t have to worry about any communication barriers.

Regardless of where you choose to stay, Casa Mora’s website has a couple of great maps that should help you both in getting to Malinalco & getting around town once you arrive.

John & the in-laws enjoying some tasty beverages at Los Pilares

John & the in-laws enjoying some tasty beverages at Los Pilares

Other spots we can recommend– for restaurants, Las Palomas and Los Pilares (both very near the central town square) had excellent food & drink. Also Nieves Mallinali had fantastic ice cream– try the Galleta flavor (the Spanish word for ‘cookie’, and there were chunks of cookie stuffed throughout).  Finally, I was a bit skeptical of the Museum of Malinalco, thinking “how interesting could a museum be in a town this size?”  Surprisingly, I thought the musem was extremely well done & I would say is actually worth a visit!

Here are a few other photo highlights from our time in Malinalco.

We did some pretty intense book-reading on the lawn of Casa Mora

We did some pretty intense book-reading on the lawn of Casa Mora

I realized how long it had been since I'd had the opportunity to walk barefoot on a nice, green lawn. Larry enjoyed the brightly colored flowers that have not been seen in NE for many moons now...

I realized how long it had been since I'd had the opportunity to walk barefoot on a nice, green lawn. Larry enjoyed the brightly colored flowers that have not been seen in NE for many moons now...

Another view of the lovely pool + thatched-roof hut for outdoor dining

Another view of the lovely pool + thatched-roof hut for outdoor dining

Here's one of the bedrooms in Casa Mora, with a second door for a nice cross-breeze + garden views...

Here's one of the bedrooms in Casa Mora, with a second door for a nice cross-breeze + garden views...

Best part of the Casa Mora bedrooms? HAMMOCK IN THE BEDROOM! Brilliant.

Best part of the Casa Mora bedrooms? HAMMOCK IN THE BEDROOM! Brilliant.

Here's the crew with the tasty breakfast @ the B&B-- featuring scrambled eggs with chorizo, as well as chilaquiles (the best Mexican breakfast food ever, FYI).

Here's the crew with the tasty breakfast @ the B&B-- featuring scrambled eggs with chorizo, as well as chilaquiles (the best Mexican breakfast food ever, FYI).

The exit from Casa Mora-- it's hard to get inspired to leave...

The exit from Casa Mora-- it's hard to get inspired to leave...

Our first morning, John & I made the 400-step trek up to the Aztec archaeological site that overlooks the town. This is the map of the site

Our first morning, John & I made the 400-step trek up to the Aztec archaeological site that overlooks the town. This is the map of the site

This was the main building in the archaeological site, which was allegedly some sort of initiation site for warriors. Inside, there are animals sculpted out of the stone around a circular room; this is replicated in the Museum of Malinalco.

This was the main building in the archaeological site, which was allegedly some sort of initiation site for warriors. Inside, there are animals sculpted out of the stone around a circular room; this is replicated in the Museum of Malinalco.

Here's me with the main building + the über-steep stairs leading up towards the mountain.

Here's me with the main building + the über-steep stairs leading up towards the mountain.

We later saw this worker carrying material down aforementioned über-steep stairs... Note the intriguing-but-effective headband support system... My neck hurts just looking at him.

We later saw this worker carrying material down aforementioned über-steep stairs... Note the intriguing-but-effective headband support system... My neck hurts just looking at him.

Here's the remnants of one of the jaguars that once guarded each site of the main building.

Here's the remnants of one of the jaguars that once guarded each site of the main building.

We were lucky to visit during the season of the purple-blossomed jacarandas, which made all views around the valley a bit prettier.

We were lucky to visit during the season of the purple-blossomed jacarandas, which made all views around the valley a bit prettier.

Another view of the Malinalco valley from the archaeological site on the mountain. You can see the main street coming into town above John's head.

Another view of the Malinalco valley from the archaeological site on the mountain. You can see the main street coming into town above John's head.

And here's John being the boss on top of another Aztec building... Clearly could have intimidated many an Aztec had he lived in the right era...  This site was created around 1501.

And here's John being the boss on top of another Aztec building... Clearly could have intimidated many an Aztec had he lived in the right era... This site was created around 1501.

Here's the crew at the top of a street in downtown Malinalco.

Here's the crew at the top of a street in downtown Malinalco.

If anyone can tell me what this magical pink flower is, I am dying to know. They look like they could hardly be real!

If anyone can tell me what this magical pink flower is, I am dying to know. They look like they could hardly be real!

Here's the courtyard at the Museum of Malinalco

Here's the courtyard at the Museum of Malinalco

Here's John & I at Las Palomas

Here's John & I at Las Palomas

And as a prize for any readers who actually made it to the end of the post, here is a shot of me seducing a statue at Casa Mora. Please refrain from comment.

And as a prize for any readers who actually made it to the end of the post, here is a shot of me seducing a statue at Casa Mora. Please refrain from comment.

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