I had often seen these burros, led by older men and burdened with heavy large plastic jugs filled with water all around the small mountain town of Naolinco in eastern Mexico, and wondered what it was about. Then I remembered having seen them before at the bottom of a canyon near a small river below the entrance to the town. The burrows were resting, drinking from the river, and eating the tall grass; the men hanging about smoking, reading newspapers, and filling the large jugs. Then, up the hill to town they went, banging on doors, unloading the jugs at certain houses and coming back out with empty jugs. I was perplexed, as it was obvious that there was plenty of good running water in the town, evidenced by the many nice running public fountains and running water in my local hotel.
Finally I asked someone and was told that the better homes in town used only the river water for the washing of bed sheets, towels and under clothes, since it was much softer water and better suited to that purpose. I was also told that having the burros parked outside your house was a bit of a status indicator that shows you can afford the softer water. Then someone told me the shameful story of one of the men who had recently been caught filling his jugs from one of the city fountains early in the morning, and thus being shamed, he was no longer trusted was forced to the lower position of cutting and selling firewood. I asked if he would soon be forgiven and was told “yes, this is Mexico, sooner or later all things can be forgiven.”
By Photographer Bruce Herman
Photo Location: Amber Gallery San Jose Art District