Horse-drawn vehicles in the streets of Barranquilla

Carromulero. Photo by: Carlos Andres Guerra

People around the world have been using horse-drawn vehicles for centuries, and for multiple reasons including in agriculture, military uses, carrying people and goods, and so on. Even today, they are still used in some rural areas and in numerous cities across Colombia.

On January 27, 2012, Decree 178 was issued by the Ministry of Transportation which ordered the prohibition of carros de mulas (horse-drawn vehicles) and the circulation of this mode of transportation in Colombia. The decree was issued mainly to prevent car accidents and traffic jams but also related to the protection of animals from abuse. Mayors have the responsibility of substituting these animal-drawn vehicles for motor vehicles, or to encourage and promote new job alternatives for people who use horse-drawn vehicles as a basis for sustenance.

Juan Coronado, a local fruit seller, says that he agrees with the local government and if offered, he would be able to replace his horse-drawn vehicle with a light delivery van with three wheels (motocarro) because he spends more money taking care of a horse. It costs him $10,000 COP in food daily, and $14,000 replacing the horseshoes; more than the amount of money he would spend on gasoline.

Juan has been using his horse-drawn vehicle for 16 years now, selling plantains, watermelons, bananas, tomatoes, oranges, and other kinds of fruit and vegetables around the city. He heads to the marketplace around 7:00 am, and after stocking up on provisions, he goes to sell in popular neighborhoods around Barranquilla such as Silencio, San Felipe, Olaya, Nueva Granada, Lucero, Recreo, and many others.

Juan also stated that he was included in the Secretary of Mobility Census and uses an ID that identifies him as an owner of a horse-drawn vehicle. He is part of the substitution process, but the solution offered to him by the civil servants was to replace his horse-drawn vehicle for housing and construction materials and according to him, this is an unsustainable agreement with short-term benefits.

Despite the registration now required by the Secretary of Mobility in Barranquilla, there seems to be no final solution, and some people aren’t sure about participating in the projects, so it’s still normal to see horse-drawn vehicles around the city today. Last year, the Secretary of Mobility prohibited the circulation of these vehicles in the areas listed in Barranquilla’s government website. Nevertheless, the local government is aware that this project has a gradual process and therefore, the circulation of these vehicles are still allowed, with limited restrictions and conditions.

In the meantime, the city will look for ways to improve the substitution program and find a better solution for these informal street vendors. If you have the opportunity to buy the fruits and vegetables they offer, don’t hesitate because their products are still more affordable than those in stores.

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Carlos Guerra is a person who loves writing. His experience teaching Spanish to foreigners and his job as a Language and Culture Facilitator for the Peace Corps was his motivation to start writing about Barranquilla’s culture. He considers himself an ambassador of the Caribbean culture and Colombia. He loves teaching English and Spanish and enjoys learning from different cultures.