In case you were under the misapprehension that the fracas between operators of the city’s fleet of calandrias (horse-drawn carriages) and a Guadalajara City Hall bent on substituting their equine strength for the much less visually-striking and romantic power of electricity was over and done with, you should know the issue is anything but resolved, with many drivers bridling under new regulations.
Monday, September 25, 60 calandrieros came together before the State Human Rights Commission to issue a formal objection to what they see as unfair restrictions levied upon their operations by the city government. The secretary general of the Union of Carriage Drivers, Rafael Mendez, furthermore claimed that last Friday, members of the Unidad de Protection Animal (UPA), a private animal rights organization, attempted to impede the drivers’ operations under the pretext that the men weren’t in compliance with registration requirements.
“We know full well all this happened because we wouldn’t sign the loan agreement,” said Mendez.
The agreement referred to by Mendez is a binding contract in which the operator leases one of the new electric calandrias for 99 years, during which time he/she is responsible for any damages incurred, to the tune of as much as 500,000 pesos.
The response of Guadalajara Mayor Enrique Alfaro, who has over the last year or so personally spearheaded the move to prohibit horse-drawn carriages in his city, was anything but accommodating.
“The issue of calandrias is moot, at this point. Those who won’t comply should seek some other employment,” he stated.
Friday, September 15, the Guadalajara City Council threw its support behind the mayor when it voted to reject an initiative put forth by Councilwoman Angeles Arredondo, an advocate for the calandrieros. The initiative would have proclaimed the traditional horse-drawn calandrias a part of the state’s intangible cultural heritage, thus protecting it from oblivion.
At the core of this months-long spat is a fundamental difference of opinion regarding the horses’ treatment. UPA spokespersons claim that the animals are overworked, underfed and overexposed to weather vagaries – and that they often go unattended to by licensed veterinarians. Carriage drivers volley back that claims of abuse and overexposure are baseless and founded upon ignorance of a horse’s resilience, and that veterinarians are regularly employed to inspect and care for the beasts of burden.
What will happen to the horses after they’re phased out is another important sticking point for calandria drivers.
Said one driver: “I know what will most likely happen if I don’t have enough money to feed it: It’ll end up in the slaughterhouse.”