“I have a car now but they’ve left me without work,” she said, carrying a well-worn bridle. “I don’t know how to drive, so I hope one of my children will get a license and we can still make some money.”
Despite her precarious economic state, Garzón said she thinks the program is positive. “Maybe people will quit discriminating against us,” she said. “People are always saying ‘Look at those zorreros, those thieves, and how they abuse their animals. And look how their horses are always crapping and pissing in the street.’ ”
The negative perception surrounding the horse-cart drivers was one of the problems in finding a sustainable solution, said Ricardo Mora, the Latin American program manager for the World Society for the Protection of Animals, which worked with the city on the project.
Zorreros are stereotyped as animal-abusing thugs, he said. “A lot of people were saying ‘Let’s just take away the horses.’ ”
But many zorreros have been on the job for 40 or 50 years, and have no other skills, he said. And while images of scrawny and mistreated horses gallop across social networks, the vast majority of zorreros treat their animals with care.
“Some of the horses do live in very precarious conditions but so do the owners,” Mora said. “I’ve seen five people living in a small room and sharing the space with their horse.”
Humberto Rodríguez, 50, was dropping off his 4-year-old colt, Juancho , on a recent morning. When he was told that he couldn’t see the horse after he was adopted, he began crying.
“This is like they were taking away a brother or a son,” he said. “Juancho is a very noble horse. I’m going to miss him for the rest of my life.”
After he collected himself, he wondered about a horseless Bogotá.
“I know horses because I’ve seen them all my life,” he said. “But there are children who are never going to see one and they will always ask themselves, ‘What is a horse?’ ”