When we arrived in Mexico, Mariano had warned us that we were in the rainy season, however this had been working out for us very well. We had beautiful sunny days followed by heavy downpours and electrical storms at night when we were either travelling in the safety of our all American A-team truck, or tucked away for the night in a hotel. However, the conditions this morning made us thankful for packing our all-weather gear as the true meaning of rainy season showed itself. But with our trusty A-team truck we were able to plough through the flood water and travel out to a village called Sebastian Carmona.
The DS-UNAM programme has been working here for nine years and the villagers are very open to learning and have a good attitude to animal welfare. A conference has been hosted here several times in the past to allow vets and other professionals from all over the Americas to come together and share ideas and research.
The donkeys in this village are used to carry the farmers to the field to milk the cows and then carry the milk back to their homes. José Antonio is the DS-UNAM vet in this area; he visits here every three months and has been working on a research project on parasites alongside a social service student. There is a specific parasite in this area that has caused problems for the donkeys for many years. The research has yielded good results and from it workshops have been delivered to show how to manage and prevent infections caused by this parasite. This has led to a 60-70% reduction in the occurrence of this parasitic problem in this area.
The donkeys in this village used to have a lot of problems with their feet through lack of routine hoof care, as well as wounds caused by ill-fitting harnesses, painful bits on their bridles and complications caused by castrations performed by local people using traditional methods. With the help and support of this programme, this is now a model community, inspiring donkey owners in nearby villages to improve their equine knowledge and practices.
Whilst in this village we met a gentleman called Pedro, who told us about a recent fire 2km outside of the village when a man threw a cigarette in some dry grass and started a blaze. Pedro and his friends spotted lots of smoke whilst tending to their cattle, so they filled up knapsacks with water to go and tackle the fire. However they soon realised that the fire was blazing out of control and that they needed more water. So Pedro ran home and fetched his donkey who was able to carry large quantities of water. Pedro and his donkey went back and forth for two hours bringing water until the blaze was put out; he said that without his donkey’s help they would never have stopped the fire.
We just had to meet the hero of the hour, so Pedro went to get his donkey from the field for us to have a cuddle! Pedro told us that his donkey is now known as Bombero (which means fireman) by everyone in the village.
In this village it is tradition for the men to work the land and to milk and care for the cattle, whilst the women stay at home and tend to the cooking, house work and the poultry they keep for eggs and meat. It is also custom for this community to invite guests in for dinner and we were honoured to accept! The kitchen was amazing, traditional with a homemade wooden stove, with the lid from an oil drum being used as a hot plate – which we are happy to report produces the best tortillas in Mexico! So with kittens and chickens playing at our feet we settled in with the family for a heart-warming meal of bean and egg stew, just what we needed after a day in the rain and cold.