Charreria, a rodeo Mexican style

Last Sunday, we woke up with a strange feel, that something was off, different than usual. We couldn’t quite place that feeling, but eventually Nadia stumbled upon first clue: it was colder then normal. When that fact finally sunk in, we had to admit that it was really quite uncomfortably chilly. Then we looked outside. Even though it was a late morning already, something was missing… We couldn’t see the sun! The clouds covered the sky tightly – quite uncommon sight, we thought… And then we noticed the real game changer. Something unthinkable happened overnight. The streets were… wet! Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. There was some  moist covering the cold cobble stones. It must have rained while we were sleeping. I think, that winter finally caught up with us. Time to get that long trousers and socks out of the suitcase. At least we know, we haven’t carried them half way around the continent for nothing.

After a long and definitely late breakfast, we were ready for the main attraction of the day. A friend of ours, invited us to an event, which was taking place just outside of town. I wasn’t quite sure what was it suppose to be, but welcomed the idea of going out. Expecting for the sun to come out shortly, we didn’t put too much cloths and headed out the doors.

While trying to open the garage door, a steel latch on the gate broke off, leaving our car immobilized and forcing us to take a cab. All taxis in San Miguel de Allende are green and for the most part Nissan Tsuru, a very reliable, but small and not very comfortable cars. All rides have also a flat rate. Within town it’s $30 pesos (USD $2.5), outside town it could be up to $40 pesos (USD $3). Our 15 minutes drive turned out to be $35 pesos.

We got to the Lienzo Charro (events ring) few minutes before our host, so we had to wait in the parking lot. Fortunately, Estefania and her lovely children showed up on time and we all headed to the gate. She was also much more considerate about the weather than us, and brought with her several thick rugs.  We got to the seats and bundled tightly waiting for the show to start.

The arena, build in the shape of an “U” had all the seats on one end and an open corral on the other. There were people already in the audience, and also horsemen in the ring, but it was clear the show didn’t start yet. Curious as what to expect, we learned that we were about to witness a charrería (also known as a cherreada). In a nutshel, it’s a sports event similar to rodeo, but with some rich history.

Evolving from the traditions brought from Spain in the 16th century, the first charreadas were ranch work competitions between haciendas. The modern Charreada developed after the Mexican Revolution when charro traditions were disappearing. The competing charros often came from families with a tradition of Charreria, and teams today are often made up from extended families who have been performing for up to five generations. The charreada consists of nine events for men plus one for women, all of which involve horses, cattle or both.

As we were getting comfortable in our concrete seats, I’ve noticed that despite fairly harsh (as for San Miguel de Allende) weather, the event draw quite a number of people. Some of them were obviously family, friends and relatives of the equestrians, but there was also a fair number of tourists. They’re always easy to recognize by their large lens digital SLR’s. In San Miguel de Allende, people discover their creative sides and everyone turns painter, writer or at least a photographer…

When the show started, a group of men, women and boys, riding their horses entered the arena. After presenting themselves to the audience, they retreated to the corral and the games began. I have to admit, I didn’t find the events extremely exciting, which might be because of the cold weather. I noticed however, that despite the shivering cold, the beer vendor drew more interest than the events in the Lienzo Charro.

A boy turns a cow over in full speed pursuit

The situation changed when the boys started to chase cows in the arena, trying to turn them over in a high speed pursuit (not sure what’s PETA’s take on this one). People on the tribunes started to cheer loudly every time a cow tumbled in a cloud of dust. Again, the gradual change in audience mood might also be attributed to the much welcomed appearance of  tequila vendors. The beer vendor didn’t seem happy. Outside the main arena, vendors setup their food stands selling tacos, gorditas, enchiladas and tortas. On the audience teenage girls and boys were selling snacks. Back at the top of the tribune, a DJ has setup his gear – a loud, apparently very popular song pouring out of his large loudspeakers. Some people in the audience started to sing and dance, without paying any attention to the events in the arena. Or their neighbors for that matter…

How to spot a tourist in San Miguel de Allende?
How to spot a tourist in San Miguel de Allende?27-Nov-2011 14:03, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.011 sec, ISO 400
Peopel on the tribunes before the show began.
Peopel on the tribunes before the show began.27-Nov-2011 14:01, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
Estefania's boys watching the horsemen.
Estefania's boys watching the horsemen.27-Nov-2011 14:02, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 400
 
Horse women (?) in the corral before entering the arena.
Horse women (?) in the corral before entering the arena.27-Nov-2011 14:37, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 135.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
Lienzo Carro, the events ring in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Lienzo Carro, the events ring in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.27-Nov-2011 13:58, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
DJ singing karaoke style, folk songs. Very popular among the audience!
DJ singing karaoke style, folk songs. Very popular among the audience!27-Nov-2011 15:03, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 135.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 800
 
Young horsemen saluting the audience.
Young horsemen saluting the audience.27-Nov-2011 15:23, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 85.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
I was wondering all the time what were they drinking. Half the audience was drunk, they must have had some tequila too...
I was wondering all the time what were they drinking. Half the audience was drunk, they must have had some tequila too...27-Nov-2011 15:46, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
A boy riding a young bull.
A boy riding a young bull.27-Nov-2011 15:55, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
Tequila vendors were very popular in the audience.
Tequila vendors were very popular in the audience.27-Nov-2011 15:56, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 400
A boy riding (trying to) a young bull.
A boy riding (trying to) a young bull.27-Nov-2011 16:06, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 400
A boy under a young bull. Few bruises, nothing serious.
A boy under a young bull. Few bruises, nothing serious.27-Nov-2011 16:06, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 400
 
Young boy showing off his lasso skills.
Young boy showing off his lasso skills.27-Nov-2011 16:11, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 800
The head honcho.
The head honcho.27-Nov-2011 15:53, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 400
Lots of sombreros...
Lots of sombreros...27-Nov-2011 14:45, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
 

There were some questionable moments during the show. Apparently, the cows purpose was to be turned over – either in high speed pursuits, or being pulled by their tails, legs or horns. Younger boys were also riding them – which happened to be exciting only when one of them fell under a cow. Cows payback…

Despite that and the cold weather, I think we all enjoyed the event. But we also welcomed the proposal to move to our hosts house even more. After few hours of this frigid cold we needed a hot drink – apparently something  that’s difficult to get during sports events in Mexico…