San Antonio urban legend the Donkey Lady gets her own talk show in new film

Barrera recently walked through downtown in her prosthetics, making her a San Antonio urban legend.

“I got little side glances,”Barrera, who explored the character, said In a variety of projectsOver the years, including her latest short film  “Regneración.” “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, yes, there’s the Donkey Lady with her morning coffee.’ “

“Regneración” premieres Saturday at Slab Cinema’s Arthouse in Blue Star.The film is shown in the space. “Burra/Anarchist,”A gallery of photos showing Barrera in action as the characters she portrays in the film. They were taken by Al Rendon, Anthony Garcia, Paul Escamilla, Antonia Padilla and Lupito Acuña.

Barrera has been fascinated with the Donkey Lady story since she first heard it shortly after moving to San Antonio in 2002.

The basic story goes something like this: A husband murdered their children and set their rural home on fire. The wife escaped but was disfigured by the fire — her face scarred and twisted, and her fingers fused in such a way that they appear to be hooves. She is believed to haunt the bridge where her home was, confronting anyone who attempts to cross.

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Marisela Barrera, theater artist, has just released a short film about her latest project, which features her take on the Donkey Lady (a San Antonio urban legend). “Regeneracion.”

Marisela Barrera

“It’s a hyper-local story, but people have their own versions, depending on where you grew up,”Barrera, a Rio Grande Valley native, said that.  “There is a version of her at Churchill High School and another in Windcrest. The one most of us grew up with is the one with the Donkey Lady Bridge on the South Side.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

Where:Slab Cinema Arthouse at Blue Star 134 Blue Star

Deteails: $10-$15,

Exhibit:The film is not the only thing that the space is exhibiting. “Burra/Anarchist,”An exhibition of images featuring Marisela Barrera in the roles she plays in the film. The images were taken by Al Rendon, Anthony Garcia, Paul Escamilla, Antonia Padilla and Lupito Acuña.



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“We know that San Antonio is so economically segregated, yet this story transcends race or economic differences. She is a San Antonio story about a woman who is ostracized, criticized and ultimately misunderstood, outed as a spinster woman.”

In pieces she’s created about the character — which includes solo stage shows, short films, podcasts, and a hotline folks could call to hear messages from and leave messages for the legend — Barrera has worked to put her own spin on the story.

“The first time she ever described the character to me that was going to be on camera, she said the Donkey Lady, to her, was a punk rock version of a San Antonio burra,”Zach Smith, who designed the elaborate prosthetics for this film, said. “And I love that. It felt like, oh, my God, she’s so re-creating this character. She’s added small things like earrings and things like that — her whole persona in that short film is so different from what people would associate with this crazy folklore legend of this donkey woman who lives under a bridge.”

Alex Ramirez is a filmmaker who shot  “Regneración,”Notably, Barrera’s speech patterns and character are instantly recognisable as a San Antonio product.

“The character that Marisela created from the Donkey Lady is the epitome of a San Antonio West Sider, just in the speech,”  Ramirez said. “Being so close to that language, getting close to the way people actually talk on the West Side and recognizing the people of the West Side in the character is a lot of fun.”

Barrera  wrote, directed and stars in “Regneración.”The film’s middle section shows the first episode. “The Donkey Lady Show,”A daytime program in the which the character arrives clutching a coffee mug bearing the image Gloria Anzaldua, a Chicana scholar, when she makes her entrance. She points out that the mug isn’t filled with coffee. Instead, she’s drinking mescal.

In her opening monologue she discusses gentrification and moving to Hays Street Bridge on East Side. There she protects herself from the elements with a blue Tarp she found in Brackenridge park after Easter.

In addition to the Donkey Lady, Marisela Barrera plays Mexican writer and anarchist Ricardo Flores Magon in her new short film

Marisela Barrera is the Donkey Lady and Ricardo Flores Magon is the Mexican writer and anarchist in her new short film. “Regeneracion.”

Paul Escamilla

Her guest on the show is Ricardo Flores Magón, the writer and revolutionary — a pretty great get, given that he’s been dead for 100 years. The film’s title is in part a reference to the name of the newspaper Magón founded to oppose Mexican President Porfirio Díaz’s rule.

“The big question is, why did she need to have Ricardo Flores Magón as her first guest? She’s magic —  she can have whoever she wants,” Barrera said. “She wanted and she got Ricardo Flores Magón. That says a lot about her and her own ideals of not compromising.” Alda P. Dobbs, a Brackenridge High School graduate, has a new novel set in San Antonio during Mexico’s Revolution

Barrera is submitting “Regneración”Film festivals, possibly spreading her version of The Donkey Lady to audiences far beyond San Antonio.

Smith designed a six-piece prosthetic piece for the Donkey Lady to go with the new film. It took six weeks for it to be completed.

“Typically, that type of prosthetic transformation is reserved for feature film-type creature transformations and things like that,”He said.

This is their second collaboration on the character’s look. Barrera was also given a more theatrical, simpler look by Smith for last year’s Luminaria. She walked through Hemisfair as Barrera.

Smith, a native San Antonian, visited a bridge that was believed to be the Donkey Lady’s home as a child, hoping to witness the legend in person.

“I did not, like most of San Antonio,”He said. “It’s more the anticipation. That’s also part of why I think (Barrera’s) character is being so well-received and people are so into it, because you don’t see it in real life.”

Barrera said that she finds magic in the character when she plays it.

“When I’m the Donkey Lady, I’m not thinking about enchiladas unless she’s thinking about enchiladas,”She said. “I don’t think about my child or the dog poop that is waiting for me at home.

“Her persona takes over. I don’t want to equate it with illegal substances, but it is like a high.”

[email protected] | Twitter: @DeborahMartinEN



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