ENCINITAS — Anyone that happened to be around Coast Highway 101 on Monday afternoon had to do a double-take, making certain that what they’d seen wasn’t some mirage — a man and his donkey just passing through.
It was no mirage.
What they saw were Rubén Ruíz Vega, 33, in camouflage cargo pants, boots, T-shirt with the words “Mexico Yo Soy,” covered over with an orange reflective safety vest and broad-brimmed hat. In tow, on a length of rope, was his 4-year-old donkey Tocayo.
Vega and Tocayo (which translated means “namesake”) were on a “peace walk” that started at Culiacan, Sinaola in Mexico. They were heading north to Los Angeles, all the while advocating for a Mexico with more opportunities and better human rights conditions.
Their aim is to reach Plaza Olvera in Los Angeles Sept. 15, where at noon, he’ll ask people for five minutes of their time to hear his message.
“It is time we unite under one name, one strength, one movement,” he said. “We’re going to make a stand against everything that we know that is wrong down there and we’re going to do it in accordance with the Constitution — in accordance with the law.”
He said that the people of Mexico should stop waiting for a politician to come over and fix the situation.
“It is our responsibility,” Vega said, “to pour our grain of sand to build the Mexico that we all want.”
With peaceful change at the heart of his message, Vega, who said he was part of the Republican National Self Defense Movement, cited Article 39 of the Mexican Constitution, quoting that it was the people’s right to alter or modify their way of running the government whenever they want to — and that’s what they intend to do.
Vega, a dual citizen, and former Marine spent eight years in the Corps. He completed one tour in Afghanistan and three in Iraq, serving as an aviation mechanic.
“As a sergeant, I was limited to what I could do as a Marine, but now as a civilian, I’m able to do this long trip that allows me to draw the attention of the people and put together a plan,” he said.
This isn’t the first walk Vega has done. In September 2013, Vega walked from Tijuana to Mexico City.
During his last trip, though, the donkey he was traveling with was run over about a 100 kilometers outside the Mexican city of Caborca.
The donkey ripped the rope, Vega explained, getting away from him and was hit by a semi-truck.
He got Tocayo while in Caborca.
“He’s a jackass,” Vega said of Tocayo. “He’s got this attitude, but he’s also a sweetheart, so he’s been a great companion.”
Though why choose a donkey as a travel companion?
“He’s a great animal to draw attention with,” he said.
And Vega had worked with donkeys as a kid while growing up on a ranch in Mexico.
“They’ve got a stubborn attitude, they never give up. They’ve got a great attitude,” he said.
The reception they’ve received, he said, has been “awesome,” adding that regardless of color or race, the support has been great.
“We are all about doing something against what’s harming human beings,” Vega said. “What affects one country, affects the other. And we’re all running into the United States. We are overcrowding this great country.
“Mexico has everything it takes to offer all the opportunities we have here in the United States,” he said.