December will see the start of a year-long process in the historic center of Guadalajara to phase out horse-drawn carriages for a fleet of faux-19th century electric models, according to Merilyn Gomez Pozos, municipal director of Animal Protection.
If you’ve been following Guadalajara City Hall’s mildly polemic drive to replace its traditional calandrias with equine-less facsimiles, then you may be interested to know that for the drivers themselves, the issue has become not only Us vs Them, but Us vs Us.
One camp is being represented by Pedro Aguilar, leader of 15 drivers who are ready and willing to pilot the new models. He alleges that the remaining, much more numerous 55 calandrieros – dead-set against the new-fangled machines – have instigated a campaign of harassment and intimidation against him and his compatriots, openly impeding them from operating on Guadalajara’s streets.
“They stalk us, they physically threaten us,” complained Aguilar. “We’re afraid that something may happen to us or our families.”
Firmly entrenched on the opposite end of the dispute is Rafael Mendez Barajas, who leads the 55 pro-tradition calandrieros and is anything but pleased with the future of their industry set out by Mayor Enrique Alfaro, whom he has bizarrely compared with Adolf Hitler.
Sunday, October 1, Barajas and his men offered tourists and residents alike free rides, a form of protest that he hoped would help demonstrate that the calandria horses are being treated humanely by their caretakers.
The input of Juan Jose Gutierrez, son of a longtime Guadalajara calandriero, added shades of grey to the dispute, claiming that many drivers were actually in favor of phasing out the animals but were threatened into complying with those opposed to the impending electric replacements.
“It’s been years since animal protection came and told us that we needed to take better care of our horses, but we didn’t do anything,” said Gutierrez. “We kept going with our poor bony horses, the animals standing there sputtering and exhausted all day on their feet.”