The Donkey Show: Tijuana ephemera


Opening tonight at the Santa Monica Museum of Art (SMMOA) at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, CA: The Donkey Show, which "explores the border's intersection of myth and reality through a blend of over 200 rare tourist photographs, vintage nightlife ephemera, and pop songs born of American myths of Tijuana." The exhibition is guest-curated by cultural anthropologist and graphic design historian Jim Heimann and author and music critic Josh Kun.

For those of you in the Los Angeles area, the show's opening tonight. On Wednesday, Jan 26, the co-curators will be hosting a conversation about the show from 7-8 pm at nearby Track 16 Gallery, with a party featuring Nortec Collective artist DJ Clorofila from 8-10. Should be great fun.


  1. I can’t believe these people built an entire exhibit on the incorrect assumption that donkey shows are a myth. I’ve got some pictures that Jim Heimann needs to see,

    1. I’m puzzled by those in this thread who seem to be taking the language so literally: “myth” in that context doesn’t mean that the show organizers believe that these photographs of people on donkeys were faked or that there were no such things as “donkey shows” or something! How funny.

      1. As a previous anon poster, I can explain. It’s the word “intersection.” “Intersection of myth and reality” would imply that myth in this case means not reality. And we are so grossed out by the concept, we don’t dare read the article to learn what was really meant. Simple misunderstanding. Though we wish it were a myth (in the fictitious sense).

  2. Yep. As a 4th generation San Diegan (I say that a lot around here, don’t I?), I can pretty confidently say that there is (or was) a Donkey Show.

    I skipped it, but several of my high school classmates did not. And my elder siblings (and probably my old man, when he was a kid in the 1940s) had their pictures taken with the same “zebra” pictured above.

  3. Ah, TJ, *sigh*. As a 15 year old from Escondido your neon bacon wrapped street dog border town shenanigans was just too tempting, again and again. Tijuana in the 80’s was madness.

  4. Apparently I missed all the good stuff. I won’t rush the next drug-smuggling expedition.

  5. Another San Diego former resident. I was never brave enough to visit the the clubs on THAT side of the Revolucion. I salute those that did however.

    I did have a photo taken on one of the “Zonkeys” but I lost it a long time ago.

  6. I can’t imagine this show could ever be better than BOYSTOWN, the photo/essay/exhibition and book on border brothels edited by Bill Witliff. Compiled from an amazing cache of found negatives, scavenged from the castoff bins of retired mexican border souvenir photographers, I couldn’t stop gazing at this book for a year after I got it. There’s even a great essay by Dave Hickey:

    Oh, and the donkey show is real

    1. Unfortunately, my ex-boyfriend might have been one of them. He also spoke of a “camel show” (shudder). I was so horrified by the fact that he had been to ANY of the sex shows in Juarez – the performers of which are generally sex slaves and are treated terribly – that he went from “boyfriend” to “ex-boyfriend.”

      And this after the bast… er, jerk decided to try to “save my soul” by converting me to Christianity… Hypocrite.

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