4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

5000 monitos on his van

Don Zazueta swears he is best headlight shiner in TJ

Don Manuel Zazueta's monitos van
Don Manuel Zazueta's monitos van

There is a lot of quirky nonsense in Tijuana. There is the three-story house that has a naked lady sculpted around. There are several cars and motorbikes modified beyond imagination. Cars are more than just low-riders or classic vehicles, there is one with an exposed engine with a fake wolf’s head popping out of the hood. There’s a motorbike with spikes, horns, and skulls that pulls a small caravan. But one of the most recognizable oddities in the city is Don Zazueta and his van covered with monitos.

“Right now I am sick, I am fighting against cancer,” Don Manuel Zazueta, better known as el Señor de los Monitos (Mister Trinket Toys), tells me in his family’s diner. “They have done homages for me, but I believe the biggest one will be this next one in Parque Morelos. I was telling you, on Sunday between 12 and 6 p.m., Los Angeles artists are coming to tribute me.”

I saw Don Zazueta as he struggled with the three short steps to enter his family’s diner. He sat across the table from me, speaking softly, looking brittle, toying with his medicine, ignoring the bean soup his wife served him. Don Zazueta is 71 years old and was diagnosed with cancer six months ago. Back in July he was gravely sick in a social security hospital, Clínica 20. His most recent homage was during Mexico’s Independence Day where his van lead a parade.

Monitos on the front of Zazueta's van

“I only bought like a dozen — the rest, more than 5000 that you see [on the van], are from people just telling me ‘Here, take this.’” Don Zazueta says he started covering the van with toys around 13 years ago. “I didn’t have any studies, (I studied) up till grade three. I came to Tijuana with nothing, and this city gave me a lot. I was thinking how to give something to Tijuana, which wouldn’t offend — 100 percent healthy for anyone's view — and I had the idea of the van... Of covering it with monitos.”

Right side of the monitos van

The iconic GMC van is covered with PEZ dispensers, Legos, Disney figurines, McDonald's toys, and other trinkets. He claims none of the toys have ever been stolen. On the front and both sides of the van, there is a donation box.

Left side of the monitos van

Don Zazueta hails from a small town in the middle of nowhere in the state of Durango, where he grew up with nothing. He never had a real toy in his childhood. He remembers that during Christmas, his siblings and he would scribble their wish list to Baby Jesus (Mexico’s version of Santa Claus). The girls would get a sock filled up and tied with a piece of twine to somewhat resemble a doll. The boys would get a car toy made from a piece of wood, with bottle caps nailed in to resemble tires.

Don Zazueta and his wife arrived to Tijuana in the early '90s empty-handed. He held several jobs — cleaning cars, sweeping the streets, selling knick-knacks — until he saved enough for the van, and his own business of polishing headlights, which he swears he is the best at.

“I try to help the community, while I still have days left. Right now I don’t know if I will last until Sunday.”

The family’s diner is located on 11th Street and Pio Pico in downtown Tijuana. There is a bigger chance you will find the van outside the diner, which serves comida corrida, homemade budget meals. They accept donations for abuelitos in this location as well.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Jimmy’s Santee Stroganoff

“People have been coming in for years. They know what they like.”
Next Article

Irish coffee meets mezcal at Metl Bar Creamery & Cafe

“Warning to the public — be careful when sipping!”
Don Manuel Zazueta's monitos van
Don Manuel Zazueta's monitos van

There is a lot of quirky nonsense in Tijuana. There is the three-story house that has a naked lady sculpted around. There are several cars and motorbikes modified beyond imagination. Cars are more than just low-riders or classic vehicles, there is one with an exposed engine with a fake wolf’s head popping out of the hood. There’s a motorbike with spikes, horns, and skulls that pulls a small caravan. But one of the most recognizable oddities in the city is Don Zazueta and his van covered with monitos.

“Right now I am sick, I am fighting against cancer,” Don Manuel Zazueta, better known as el Señor de los Monitos (Mister Trinket Toys), tells me in his family’s diner. “They have done homages for me, but I believe the biggest one will be this next one in Parque Morelos. I was telling you, on Sunday between 12 and 6 p.m., Los Angeles artists are coming to tribute me.”

I saw Don Zazueta as he struggled with the three short steps to enter his family’s diner. He sat across the table from me, speaking softly, looking brittle, toying with his medicine, ignoring the bean soup his wife served him. Don Zazueta is 71 years old and was diagnosed with cancer six months ago. Back in July he was gravely sick in a social security hospital, Clínica 20. His most recent homage was during Mexico’s Independence Day where his van lead a parade.

Monitos on the front of Zazueta's van

“I only bought like a dozen — the rest, more than 5000 that you see [on the van], are from people just telling me ‘Here, take this.’” Don Zazueta says he started covering the van with toys around 13 years ago. “I didn’t have any studies, (I studied) up till grade three. I came to Tijuana with nothing, and this city gave me a lot. I was thinking how to give something to Tijuana, which wouldn’t offend — 100 percent healthy for anyone's view — and I had the idea of the van... Of covering it with monitos.”

Right side of the monitos van

The iconic GMC van is covered with PEZ dispensers, Legos, Disney figurines, McDonald's toys, and other trinkets. He claims none of the toys have ever been stolen. On the front and both sides of the van, there is a donation box.

Left side of the monitos van

Don Zazueta hails from a small town in the middle of nowhere in the state of Durango, where he grew up with nothing. He never had a real toy in his childhood. He remembers that during Christmas, his siblings and he would scribble their wish list to Baby Jesus (Mexico’s version of Santa Claus). The girls would get a sock filled up and tied with a piece of twine to somewhat resemble a doll. The boys would get a car toy made from a piece of wood, with bottle caps nailed in to resemble tires.

Don Zazueta and his wife arrived to Tijuana in the early '90s empty-handed. He held several jobs — cleaning cars, sweeping the streets, selling knick-knacks — until he saved enough for the van, and his own business of polishing headlights, which he swears he is the best at.

“I try to help the community, while I still have days left. Right now I don’t know if I will last until Sunday.”

The family’s diner is located on 11th Street and Pio Pico in downtown Tijuana. There is a bigger chance you will find the van outside the diner, which serves comida corrida, homemade budget meals. They accept donations for abuelitos in this location as well.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Waste and Covid-19 missteps plague CoreCivic's border lockup

"We determined ICE paid more than $22 million for unused bed space"
Next Article

Dahmer's Diner, Nico, Deadheads, Paul Williams

Goth rock, Moby Grape on the street, Elvis in 1977, Stone Temple fracas, Charles McPherson, flamenco insiders
Comments
1

Now THAT is a man! Bravo.

Sept. 25, 2016

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close