Now premiering virtually at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, La Recua – The Mule Pack Train, is a documentary film about early Baja California trail-transport by burros and herdsmen.
The film follows Darío Higuera, a 70-year-old traditional saddle maker in Baja California Sur. He has a dream of reenacting the old recuas, merchant pack trains, that once traveled through the rugged area over 100 years ago, just like his grandfather used to participate in.
Darío gathers a herd of mules and donkeys, builds saddles and traditional gear for his outfit, and plans an historic re-enactment of the old-time merchant pack trains. Friends and family (including his 8-year-old grandson) join him on his journey and they pack a dozen burros with loads of goat cheese, dates, sugar-cane candy, and 10 gallons of famous Comondú wine for their journey.
In March of 2018 they travel 200 miles in 20 days by mule-back, herding a pack train of donkeys from Comondú in the heart of the Sierra de la Giganta all the way to La Paz along the old El Camino Real and cargo trails.
Fearing that the old traditions might be lost forever, Darío overcomes hardships of health, rattlesnakes, and hot days on dusty, forgotten trails in order to honor the memory of Baja California’s “long-haul” equine merchants, Los Arrieros, the muleteers of Baja’s donkey pack trains.
The film documents how the old-style recua equipment was made and gathered, describes the history of the old falluqueros and their lifestyle, and brings to life how las recuas were once key to the livelihood of Baja California’s ranching culture for centuries.
The thread of this beautifully filmed and epic journey is the Californio vaquero and arriero history along with the personal background of Darío and his companions. Produced by Trudi Angell and co-directed by Darío Higuera Meza (both of Corazón Vaquero fame), the film features beautiful cinematography and historical importance.
La Recua – The Mule Pack Train will be showing until April 10th via the Santa Barbara International Film Festival website. Anyone in the U.S. or Canada can purchase a ticket to stream the film and watch at home via the film festival streaming platform. Tickets are US$10 and can be purchased at the link here.
At the Todos Santos Film Fest this month from April 15-18, the La Recua trailer will play and there will be a 40-minute behind-the-scenes interview about the film.