Donkey Lovers – Cartagena, Colombia


I’m a man of the world. I’ve, you know, been around.
I’ve traveled between cultures a bit and something I’ve learned is that ‘normal’ is a very relative term. But just when I start to think nothing can surprise me anymore, that’s when the world comes up with some new schtick to blow my mind.

I’m in Cartagena, on Colombia’s north coast.
I’m couch-surfing with Dione in his small apartment in the inner suburbs.

It’s a typically humid Cartagena evening. Dione and me are perched on a half constructed concrete slab outside his flat, where the sea breeze can cool our skin. There’s piles of bricks and sand around us and laundry flapping on ropes. It’s a very ordinary block of flats but the view from where we sit is quite beautiful. The old city is not far away. The towering glass rectangles of the business district. The cathedral spire and the old Spanish fort lit up on the skyline.

Cartagena is a chaotic blend of old and new. Like every big city it has traffic choked roads, teenagers on iPhones, mega-malls, night clubs and crack heads. But there’s still plenty of vestiges of the old Americas here too. Walk down the city streets and you’ll see women selling arepas and tortillas from little barrows. Kids and dogs squabbling in the gutter. Men guiding donkey carts along the four lane roads between buses, trucks and scooters.

As Dione and I sip our drinks on the rooftop we hear a donkey braying somewhere close by.

“I’m pretty amazed so many people still use donkeys here” I comment.
Dione chuckles.
“Some men in Cartagena have a special relationship with their donkeys” he says. “They are not just for transport, they really love them.”
“What do you mean?”
Dione raises his eyebrows.
A horrible creeping suspicion starts to form in my mind.
“You don’t mean they..?”
Dione cranks his eyebrows even higher and nods slowly.
“Really? No! I heard rumours about this in the south. You mean it’s true?”
Dione grins with satisfaction at my look of amazement. “Yep. They fuck their donkeys.”
“You’re bullshitting me. Seriously?”
“I’m not bullshitting you. My neighbour has an uncle who does this with his donkey. And his donkey is a boy too!”

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The braying of the donkey next door takes on a new significance and images form in my mind that I am not completely comfortable with.

“He uses a special technique to fuck a boy donkey” Dione explains. “His uncle ties a rope around the donkeys balls and the other end of the rope he ties here, onto the top of his sandal.”
Dione makes a back and forth motion with his foot, like he is peddling an old fashioned treadle sewing machine.
“That is how it is possible to fuck a boy donkey.”
This doesn’t happen to me often but I’m speechless for a minute or two.

We sit in silence. The donkey squawks again. I can’t help feeling like there is a note of contentment in the sound. Certainly no alarm or anxiety. That makes me feel a bit better.

“Thinking about it, it’s not that strange” I say to Dione. “I eat meat. Who am I to judge?”
He shrugs. “Yes. It’s traditional for some people here I think.”
“Sure” I agree. “There’s worse traditions I guess. I mean, it’s healthier than what Catholic priests get up to in Australia.”


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