Animal rights activists are outraged after a pregnant mare forced to pull a traditional carriage (calandria) in the Guadalajara city center went into labor outside the San Juan de Dios Market.
The horse was led to the nearby Morelos Park, where she gave birth successfully.
Guadalajara city hall’s animal protection unit, which checks the health of the equines every three months, had issued the mare with a “incapacidad” note (equivalent to maternity leave), meaning she could not work.
According to several reports, the horse is owned by Rafael Mendez, the leader of the dissident group of calandrieros (carriage drivers) who are opposed to city hall’s program to replace the traditional horse-drawn units with electric models.
The Guadalajara municipal government has yet to carry through on its promise to remove all the equines from the streets. Horse-drawn and electric calandrias are currently operating side by side in the historic downtown area, although most reports suggest that tourists still prefer to take rides in the classic models.
While the incoming municipal administration is expected to continue its push toward all-electric calandrias, there is a consensus of opinion growing among the general public that the traditional calandrias should not be phased out completely.
This fact was reinforced on July 21 – ironically, the same day the mare gave birth in the downtown park – when the state Culture Secretary’s proposal that the iconic carriages form part of the “Cultural Patrimony of the State” received official approval.
In his column in Spanish-language daily Milenio, staunch calandria backer Jorge Fernandez Acosta said the new designation “opens a door of opportunity to create a department to coordinate efforts to improve the (working) conditions for the horses.”
In a statement, Guadalajara city hall criticized the move, noting that horse-drawn calandrias are an “inappropriate tourist attraction based on animal suffering.”
Meanwhile, city hall, in addition to starting its own proceedings against Mendez, has filed a criminal complaint with the State Attorney General’s Office (FGE), citing violation of Jalisco’s animal cruelty laws.
Merilyn Gomez, director of the animal rights department at Guadalajara city hall, said sanctions for cruelty under state law are severe but noted that the FGE has been slow to act on previous complaints filed by the municipality. In fact, she said, none have ever been resolved adequately.
Animal rights lawyer Anayeli Galvez also supported Gomez’s criticism of the FGE, noting that complaints made by activists have fallen on deaf ears – the most recent being a denuncia filed last year that cited the mistreatment of 67 calandria horses, one named “Pantera,” which died while working. Not only did the FGE ascertain that the horse died of “natural causes,” Galvez said, but the case file somehow mysteriously disappeared.