Tijuana Embraces its Touristy ‘Zonkeys’

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  03.25.10 | 10:39 AM ET

Tijuana Zonkey, striped donkeyPhoto: Roebot via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Behold the zonkey. This poor donkey and others like it, painted with stripes to resemble zebras, have been a kitschy mainstay on Tijuana’s Avenida Revolución for years. Before drug-related crime frightened most tourists away—visits from the U.S. have dropped off 80 percent since 2001—many would pay a few bucks to don sombreros and pose for photos with the animals. It’s a ridiculous tradition that somehow endures.

And now, a new Tijuana basketball team playing in a regional Mexican league has embraced the painted zebras, calling themselves the Tijuana Zonkeys. They have striped jerseys and, yes, even cheering “Zonkeys girls.”

The team’s president told the San Diego Union-Tribune: “It’s a crazy, cartoonish figure, and in a way, that’s what the city’s all about. It’s a crazy, cartoonish city where everything is possible.”

He’s right about that.

Go Zonkeys.

1 Comment for Tijuana Embraces its Touristy ‘Zonkeys’

The Real Tijuana 03.26.10 | 1:51 AM ET

The zebra-striped donkey became part of the Tijuana landscape around 1941, when one photographer visited the San Diego Zoo and noticed that zebras offered better contrast for the black-and-white Polaroid photos he sold to tourists. Before then, as far back as there have been cameras, tourists had their pictures taken with ordinary gray donkeys.

Recently, Polaroid stopped making their black-and-white instant film. And the stripes are starting to fall off our donkeys. We are witnessing the end of an era. At least we now have a basketball team to remember them by.

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