Special Delivery: ‘Burreros’ Offer Personal Package Service

For some Latinos, delivering a package to relatives does not mean going through FedEx, but instead hiring a “burrero” (Spanish for “donkey”) — a person who makes a living traveling between countries to deliver goods. This ensures that a package will reach its destination quickly — and as an added perk, the burrero can also bring news of family members, or even accompany children traveling without their parents. El Diario La Prensa ran an article on the practice by reporter Zaira Cortés, which is translated from the Spanish below.

“Western Union, FedEx, UPS? No mi’ja, we don’t use that,” Carmen Díaz replied bluntly. Díaz, a Venezuelan from Brooklyn, has been using a “burrera” for a number of years to send packages to Mexico, where her husband’s family lives.

The so-called “burreros” or “burros” are Latinos who make a living by delivering packages, letters, money, and even escorting the children of people who can’t travel. The practice is common among Mexicans, but is not limited to that community.

Puebla native Clara Saldiva, 52, has been working as a “burrera” for seven years.

Clara Saldiva poses with large packages ready for delivery.

Clara Saldiva holds up pan de burro (donkey bread) that she will deliver to some of her customers in New York City, along with some packages she will bring to Mexico. (Photo by Zaira Cortes/EDLP)

Saldiva, a retired schoolteacher, recalled that the first time she visited New York, friends and relatives asked her to deliver gifts and letters. It was then that she started her own messenger service. She now travels twice a month and charges six dollars a pound.

The most common types of merchandise that she delivers include handmade tortillas, sweets, artisanal crafts, and the traditional pan de burro (literally “donkey bread”) from Puebla, Mexico.

On each trip, Saldiva carries more than 200 pounds of weight.

“Many people use burreros because their food arrives fresh and on the same day. We are part of a tradition,” she explained.

Saldiva doesn’t only transport packages. On various occasions, with the authorization of parents, she has accompanied children, charging up to $600.

“Parents who can’t travel send their children so they can get to know their relatives. I only escort children of people that I know,” she said.

Gloria Álvarez, a Bronx resident for 25 years, recently sent her 1-year-old daughter to visit family.

“I sent my other daughter before. It’s very safe because my children are delivered right to my parents at the same airport,” she emphasized.

Saldiva collects her pay at her apartment in Saint Lawrence Avenue, in the Bronx, which she shares with her relatives.

She stated that she meticulously looks over each package to avoid the risk of transporting illegal objects or substances. She also delivers money, but in small quantities.

“We don’t just transport packages; we provide a link between families. We see the immigrants and when we arrive in Mexico, we tell their relatives how they are doing,” she said.

The First Burrero

Gumaro Samuel Vigueras, also known as Sami, is 51 years old and lives in the Fordham section of the Bronx. Local residents know him as one of the first burreros in the Mexican community.

Sami, known as one of the first Mexican burreros, holds up a sealed contained of pasta de mole that someone from Puebla, Mexico has sent to a relative in Brooklyn. (Photo by Zaira Cortes / EDLP)

Vigueras has been in the business for more than 24 years. He travels every week, carrying up to 500 pounds and delivering packages to some 50 families.

“When I first started out, I would transport up to 30 suitcases, weighing more than 1,500 pounds. I wasn’t so skilled then,” he explained.

Vigueras said that Margarito Tlatelpa, a deceased schoolteacher from Brooklyn, was the first Mexican burrero.

“He had already been in the delivery business for years when many of us were starting out,” said Vigueras.

Proud to be a Burro

Vigueras said that he delivers merchandise to various towns in Mexico, and to all five boroughs in New York City.

“They call us burreros because we look like burros (donkeys), transporting cargo everywhere. The nickname doesn’t offend us; it’s actually very hard work.”

In order to deliver perishable foods such as tortillas, mole sauce and bread, Vigueras uses small coolers with dry ice.

Petronila Pedraza, a client of Viegueras, said she has been sending packages through burreros for more than 15 years. “It’s safe and trustworthy because it’s an agreement between friends. It’s part of our culture.”

Burreros generally travel on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and return to the city on the weekends.

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