If you’re ever anywhere near Olvera Street, you’ll have difficulty missing the large stuffed donkey with a cart that greets you in its traditional colorful serapes as you enter the store.

The donkey, a family-run attraction for 57 years, is known as La Carreta. The beloved donkey is a popular stop for visitors and photo ops for tourists. However, the owner says it is, much more importantly, an ode to Los Angeles’s Mexican heritage.

Sadly, the family has received an order to vacate from Olvera Street, placing the legacy of La Carreta in jeopardy. The significance of the donkey means a lot to many Angelinos, and the attention has resulted in the L.A. City Council putting forth a motion to save it.

Some may be curious about the significance of a stuffed donkey on Olvera Street, so it stands to reason that we should gain an appreciation of La Carreta’s history.

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Born in 1930 in Durango, Mexico, Jesus “Don Chuy” Hernandez lived as a traveling birria seller. During his travels, Hernandez met Trancito “Tancho” Valazquez. Together, the two were married and immigrated to LA, opening a custom jewelry business on Olvera Street.

Back home in Tijuana, the donkeys that pulled carts inspired the couple to create their version in L.A. Together, they decorated the area with items that mirror Mexican life, Got sombreros, and painted a colorful cart.

Initially, El Burrito y La Carreta was a living donkey. Richard Hernandez, Trancito’s son, recalls walking the donkey to Olvera Street from Eagle Rock. However, a stuffed version currently stands in the 10-foot space near the entrance today.

Hernandez said, “When I see people walk in for the first time, they go, ‘oh wow, a little donkey.” He said they ask, “’ Is it real? Oh no, it’s fake. How cool. Let’s get a picture.’ And they put on their hats. They hold a tequila bottle.”

Hernandez elaborated that even though La Carreta and the area are for pure enjoyment, many people have found tradition here. The owner continued to say that he has had many customers come in over the years who have taken pictures sitting on the donkey when they were children and show the photos to him with pride.

The eviction is at the root of the issue, which has many people wondering why it’s taking place. Simply put, it is an issue with the contract that permits the stand to operate.

On April 16, Hernandez’s mother passed away, which left the stand absent a living signee on the paperwork that grants them the right to do business in that location.

Hernandez argues that his mother gave notarized paperwork to Olvera Street Management in 2019 to add him to the contract. Unfortunately, the contract was never updated, and he is not listed on it as of today.

According to city employee Carlos Morales, Olvera Street Management has no public comment. The El Pueblo Commission will discuss the contract on May 23.

Still, this L.A. City Council could take action before any further discussions. Hernandez and his family have spoken with council member Kevin de Leon’s office, which introduced a motion to request the city Commission consider Hernandez’s mother’s paperwork and transfer ownership to her son. A vote on that motion is expected next week.

De Leon told reporters, “Why don’t we just extend it?” He continued, “Why do we have to go out of our way to make it much more difficult and onerous and bureaucratic?”

“I sat down with Mr. Hernandez yesterday and went through all the data that was presented to me,” de Leon added. “I just came to my conclusion that irrespective of what the city attorney’s perspective may be, irrespective of what the general manager of El Pueblo may be, the donkey has been here for decades.”