Stephen Blakeway, the Sanctuary's Director of International Operations, asked me to write a little bit about an ancient tradition among the ethnic groups in Mexico which we also use to honour the donkeys that have died.
Thursday 23rd October
Tenango del Valle is just beyond Santiago Tianguistenco. Its primary school seems idyllic. A playground bordered by beds of flowering bushes and lilies sits between two bright rows of classrooms. To one side is a grassy football pitch and a woody knoll. Beyond is a view to hillsides patched with agriculture and more distant mountain tops. At last we are going to see the education team in action.
Tuesday 21st October
While Mal Squance, our Deputy Chief Executive, has a day in the office, I join a mixed team led by Carlos but including Mauro a veterinary assistant, Pablo the farrier, Beto the harness-maker, Alma, Ereka and Diana the Social Service vets, and Fernando, another Social Service vet from a different programme who acts as my translator for the day.
Monday 20th October
We are collected early by the project vets Carlos and Mauro, project driver and logistician Josue, and social service vets Erika and Diana to drive to St Bernabe market. This lies about 60 kms as the crow flies west of Mexico City between Toluca and Ixtalhuaca. However we do not follow the route of a crow and the journey, up over forested hills in clear morning light cut by occasional bands of low morning mist, takes us 3 hours.
Thursday 16th - Saturday 18th October
On Thursday we set off for Martinez de la Toro in Veracruz State, a field station for UNAM (the Autonomous National University of Mexico) vet school and home to the Veracruz sub-project. We go with Mariano, the vet in charge of the Veracruz sub-project, and Avril, Elena and Josue from the Education programme. Later we are joined by Horacio, Mexico Project Manager, and Luis, his driver and logistician. From Mexico City to Martinez de la Torre is a 5-6 hour drive.
I met a great little donkey called Sigitu today and I couldn’t stop giving him cuddles! He’s a 17-year old skewbald gelding who lives near our main Sanctuary in Sidmouth.