Preparing for Donkey Festival

A parked donkey in San Antero's main street

A parked donkey in San Anteros main street

There’s something special about San Antero’s Donkey Festival this year: it can be truely celebrated. Why, would you say, what nonsense are you talking? Well, it isn’t. Yesterday the mayor told me in 2011 there haven’t been any killings yet in the village. I didn’t believe him. This area on the coast of one of Colombia’s most violent regions, Córdoba, where drugs transports leave every day, cannot be suddenly peaceful. Yet it appears he wasn’t lying.

Several inhabitants confirm the village has been quiet, lately. “Till Christmas you couldn’t walk the streets after 7 pm”, doña Adela told me yesterday evening. “Lots of young guys were killed because the Paisas and Aguilas were fighting their drugs transports from San Antero’s beach.” And now the village’s streets fill up at night for there are concerts in preparation of San Antero’s biggest festival. the International – I am serious – Donkeyfestival. The people can enjoy the bullerengue songs and dance and have a beer without worrying some crazy guy on a motorcycle with a gun passes by.

I have been talking to Alcides Anaya, a humble peasant, who goes on his donkey everywhere and if it’s too far, he takes a bus and ties Renault 4 – that’s the donkey’s name – to a tree, to wait for him. Renault 4 was robbed twice, Alcides told me, but since he’s too stubborn, people bring him back. Alcides and his Renault 4 will be honoured at the festival on Saturday.

Since it’s Holy Week, San Antero has to celebrate its Donkeyfestival from Saturday onwards. The Easter celebration will make it possible for the village to go wild. But before that it’s time for prayer and devotion. The Catholic church has criticized the village a lot on this pagan celebration during the Holy Week. San Antero’s defense is that its origin is sacred. It was the burning of Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. Actually Judas is still burned, he’s put on a donkey, tied to the highest tree at the market square and burned. But the day after the miss donkey elections are held and that has nothing to do with religion. It seems this to mock the eternal beauty queens elections in Colombia. I’m trying to talk to the teacher Cristobal Correa. He is said to be the inventor of that. I’ll keep you informed.

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