ACAPULCO, Mexico – The horse-drawn carriage, an icon of the Mexican seaside resort of Acapulco for more than 60 years, is close to disappearing due to a law to protect animals from being mistreated in Guerrero state, which now requires that they all be retired starting Nov. 1.
“Tourists like them a lot, they themselves say so, and it’s the best way to enjoy all the sights of the city because we go along at the speed of a horse-trot – which gives us time to describe the places we’re passing, the restaurants, the dishes they offer...” carriage-driver Orlando Vallejo Guadarrama told Efe on Tuesday.
These picturesque horse-drawn carriages have been a big attraction since the 1950s, particularly for foreigners, who made Acapulco one of the principal tourist destinations on Mexico’s Pacific coast.
Their future after Nov. 1 is in doubt, however, due to the General Animal Welfare Law that was passed in 2014, and which banned bullfights, animals in circuses, dogfights and horse-drawn carriages.
The application of the law on horses and on the carriages they pull was postponed for several years due to a plea that the drivers have the necessary funds to find other means of pulling their carriages, a job that more than 350 families live off of.
“We’re seeing a proposal for the horses to be sent to a sanctuary. Now we’re hoping to have enough funds not only to substitute the horses, but to make sure they have a decent future and are not sent to a slaughterhouse,” said Elsa Salgado Gama, president of the Acapulco Happy Hoofs Community.
Vallejo Guadarrama, a second-generation carriage driver, began this work as an 8-year-old boy and at present also directs the Acapulco Union of Permissionaires and Carriage Drivers.
“If I started telling you all the beautiful things about the horse-drawn carriages in Acapulco, I’d never finish. They got here about the time I reached the age of reason – they’ve been on the road since 1953,” Vallejo said in an interview with Efe.
The carriages have evolved over time. Wood was swapped for decorated metal – the Cinderella-type design is one of the favorites around the city.
“Previously they were all made of wood but since the local carpenters aren’t specialists at making wheels and all that, they had a lot of problems when one got broken. So they decided to get the ones made of iron,” Vallejo said.
He said the carriages, more than a job are a passion, since it’s a 24-hour occupation looking after the horses in the morning and serving passengers day and night.
Salgado added that “when the proposal was made that the horses should be substituted with motorized carriages, the Animal Welfare Law was drawn up – it was really to avoid the mistreatment of animals.”
Despite that, the carriage drivers have not had any talks with the relevant authorities, though all they are asking is that they be allowed to do their work, as they have done for the past 60 years.