Mexican Small Town Rodeo
© Tara A. Spears
It was an absolutely perfect day for being outdoors and enjoying the spectacle of a Mexican rodeo. Charreria is one of the most practiced sports in Mexico. Mexican rodeo is not only sport and culture, it is a tradition that has endured over five centuries. The modern participants demonstrate skill and traditions that proudly show off the ranching expertise of the vaqueros (cowboys). This sport can best be described as living history, an art-form drawn from the demands of a working life. Charreria preserves the traditions of colonial Mexico. It is a display of bravery and quality of both animals and charros.
The bull riding- jineteo de toro- is a super adrenaline charge to watch. The animals are so powerful and the men look so small comparatively. The photos follow the bull rider’s progress from the shute (above,) to the twist that lost his hat, (left); to the gallop across the ring. This rider was one of the few to stay aboard the required time to qualify.
Author’s note: Before you judge these events from a modern perspective, i.e. cruelty to animals, one must remember the historic roots of the man vs. beast competitions. It is important to note that the Mexican Charro deeply respects all the animals used in the display of riding and roping prowess. The animals themselves are graded for their bravery and ability to thwart the cowboys. In addition, it is a great source of pride to breed animals that are used in the charrerias. The following competition seems a little hard on the cows, but it is a very challenging event for the rider.
In the competitive event called ‘colas’, the rider gallops along side of a running calf. He leans over and grabs the calf’s tail, wraps the tail around his leg which causes the calf to flip to a stop. The horse must maintain a gallop in order to have enough momentum to pull over the calf. The strain on the rider’s leg joints has to be huge! All of the calves trotted back to the gate so it mustn’t bother them.
Another suerte/event is the lasso tricks. It is difficult to see in my photos but the rope is going around the horse continually. This cowboy even twirled the rope as he stood up and sat back down in the saddle. Very calm horse!
Undenighably the horses are the real superstars of a charreria. Most of the horses will be Azteca or Andalusian breed because the charro requires a flashy horse that is not too tall but of a suitable height for the various events. These two horse breeds are quick enough to keep up with the cow and has strong and balanced gaits. Rodeo horses must be calm enough for roping, yet also agile and quick for reining. The Mexican national horse, Azteca, is bred to be a perfect mount for the charro.
Be sure to bring a camera when you go to a live performance of a Mexican rodeo to capture the action. Whether it is a small town celebration or one of the professional rodeo circuit events in larger cities, seeing a live rodeo is a great way to experience authentic Mexico.