Charreria is the Mexican interpretation of equestrian art and rodeo riding. Its origin in Mexico can be traced back to when the Spaniards came to the New World and brought many different types of food, textiles and animals, among which came the horse. The use of the horse was initially restricted to only the elite until permission was petitioned for use by cattle ranch hands, who needed to put to pasture livestock. It was starting from this point that the horse became more commonly used, creating the Mexican cowboy culture that has a flare all of its own.
Nowadays, one of the areas that is most known as where charreria is done as a serious endeavor is in the state of Jalisco. You can ask anyone what is the first thing they think of when they think of this central-western state and the answer will most likely be, "tequila, mariachi and charreria," symbols that also coincide with what Mexicans everywhere identify with.
Much like the cowboys and wranglers of American tradition, the charro is famous for rope tricks, horseback riding skills and elegant clothing. They are also known as romantic figures, dressed in suits, which are normally embroidered or feature silver buttons and adornments. And like their American counterparts, it is the hat that distinguishes and sets them apart. It is an emblem that reflects theMexican spirit as much as a raucous chorus of the all-time favorite song "Cielito Lindo," with the resounding "ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores..."
The lovely beach city ofPuerto Vallarta, found in the state of Jalisco, also plays an important part in this spectacle because it happens to be home to the National Championships of Charros, which takes place in February. Here, the best of the best come to show off their skills in a series of competitions which put to the test the horsemanship of each participant.
There are a series of nine maneuvers that involve different levels of equestrian control. Below is a list of the maneuvers:
Cala de Caballo
The exercise consists of the rider galloping at full speed and then stopping abruptly, after which the horse must turn around on its axis to one side and then to the other. This is followed by the rider making the horse back up to 40 meters in a straight line.
Roping the horse's hind legs, not to throw it but to make it slow down.
This is a maneuver where the rider must gallop behind a bull running at full speed and has to stop it by pulling it down by the tail.
The only part of the sport that is strictly for women, this involves riding formations in groups of at least eight and other such tests of skill, all riding side-saddle.
Jineteada de Toros
This involves riding a bucking bull until it slows to a stop.
Roping skill that requires different riders to rope the head, horns and legs of the bull.
Jineteo de Yeguas
The rider must stay mounted on a bucking, wild mare until she stops.
This can be done two ways, on foot or on horseback. This involves roping the front legs of a horse going at full gallop.
Paso de la Muerte (Jump of Death)
This is the most dangerous of all the maneuvers mentioned. It involves a rider riding bare back on a tamed horse, running at full gallop alongside a wild mare, while trying to switch from one horse to another.
The charro mystique is such a part of Mexican culture that there is a National Charro Day, celebrated two days before Mexican Independence Day, on the 14th of September. In Puerto Vallarta, there is a parade which normally passes through the Zona Romantica (the Romantic Zone) on this day so if you are in town during this time, swing down to the Zona Romantica for the 14th and catch the Independence Day celebrations on the 15th and 16th for a truly Mexican experience, where you can see men and women taking part in the continuation of this long running heritage.
Charreria: A State Tradition in Vallarta
- Fumiko Nobuoka