Riding with Honor: The Vaquero Lifestyle

During our day spent with a group of incredible charrería athletes—charrería is Mexico’s national sport, a competitive event very similar to rodeo within the United States—we not only learned a great deal but grew an even stronger appreciation for a sport so rich in history. Originating from the demands of ranch life on the haciendas of old Mexico, charrería has a deep connection between the athletes and their Mexican heritage. We learned that there are several events within charrería including cala de caballo (reining), escaramuza (equestrian-like routines while wearing traditional Adelita attire and riding sidesaddle), bareback riding and trick roping.

Ramon Becerra:

Horse trainer, equestrian entertainer, and trick roper

What is the origin of the charrería? “Years and years ago, there were just a lot of vaqueros that worked in ranches, in haciendas. All the vaqueros from different haciendas would get together and have a fiesta, a big party. They started playing in a round corral [which then turned into] a competition. And that is where the rodeo comes from—all of these fiestas. And then they came to this side, to North America, and they started to do it a little bit differently. But basically, it’s all the same.” - Ramon

How do you maintain the vaquero way of life? “I grew up with my grandfather, who was a real vaquero, and so I learned the vaquero lifestyle. And what I do now is try to keep the tradition, the vaquero way of life from Mexico, alive. And I've been able to do it, going to work with and teaching kids about the old way, the old Mexico, with all the tradition. Actually, just yesterday I went to work with some kids who have never seen a horse before. So it was very important to teach the new generation so that the vaquero way and the ranch lifestyle won’t die.” - Ramon

What is your relationship like with the horses? “One of the [many] important things I learned from my grandfather is you have to learn your horse. You have to have patience, you have be persistent, and persevere. So it's very important to have that passion. That's one of the things that mean a lot to me. When I perform, when I train horses, I carry that in me, that passion for horses. It's connected to your soul.” - Ramon

What does this heritage mean to you personally? “It is an honor to be able to still do this—trick rope, ranch, train horses—and know about the old ways, the tradition, the ranch work, all of it, because it’s an art and it’s dying. And I’m hoping to do this until the last day I’m here in this world.” - Ramon

Luis Torres:

Owner of LT Quarter Horses, reining horse trainer, and former charro

What is your family history within vaquero life? “My family's from Zacatecas, Mexico. My great grandfather, he's the one who mainly was the pioneer into the cattle association back home and from that point on, my father brought me into it. Ever since I was a little kid, he had me there in the rodeos, gathering cattle, and horseback riding. So, it is very important for me to just continue that tradition—what has become a family love.” - Luis

What is your technique training horses? “It is said that the horse actually mimics your heartbeat. So when you go out there and you rush, the horse feels it. So you have to come in there and have that feel, that delivery, in which your horse understands. And learn how to give and how to back off. With the horses, it's a one on one. You can't go in there thinking I'm going to do this on my own. You have to go in there as a partner; it's like when you're dancing. You have to give the right cues and you have to have the right feel to develop that understanding. It's a language. So, part of the training is teaching that language and allowing your horse to understand what you are asking from him and getting him from the training phase to the actual show arena.” - Luis

What is it like wearing the charro attire? “It's quite an amazing feeling. Mainly it's the inner power that you get when you walk out and you have this outfit on. It’s more than an outfit actually; it’s part of you. It goes back to that tradition, that culture that you embrace. And that's why you want to represent it well. To portray that image, it comes with a responsibility. When you're dressed and you have that outfit on, you feel everything you represent through the actual outfit itself.” - Luis

Alejandra Miranda:


What is the charrería culture like? “Our culture is really full of music, of family, of togetherness, and of hard work. Working in an escaramuzas team, you have to work together [and] have patience. It's like your family. And that instills all [of our traditional] values with us. And you just carry it on to narration with the music, with the attire, with even the horse's attire. Everything.” - Alejandra

How do you feel when you ride? “When I ride, I feel so proud. At the beginning of every performance there's a parade that all the teams do. And there's a special song which is like the national anthem of the rodeo, the Marcha Zacatecas. As soon as that song comes on, I tear up and my heart just starts pounding really fast. It's all the pride of representing my culture, my family, and the generations behind me. I just feel so proud when that music comes on and I see all the dresses, the people, the liveliness, and the happiness. It's amazing.” - Alejandra

What do escaramuzas represent? “Escaramuzas definitely represent a group of eight girls riding together with their horses to perform a routine and exercises. But beyond that, it means sisterhood because the eight girls really need to work together and in sync and bypass everything, all of our differences and all of our opinions, and really learn how to work together to make a successful routine. And there's a lot of bond that comes with that. So an escaramuza to me is more than just a cowgirl rider. It's family. It's sisterhood. It's culture and heritage.” - Alejandra

The event itself appears extremely difficult. “Being an escaramuza is definitely having strength and having guts and maybe falling off the horse and getting back up and trying the best that you can. Again, not only for you but for your team. Being determined to get those points. Being determined to make sure that your teammates are able to work together. Have that fearlessness in you to make that cross, to do that turn, to do that slide, and not be intimidated by anything. ‘Oh, no, the horse's going to cross by me.’ No, you have to do it. And you have the confidence to do it.” - Alejandra

If you could, what would you say to your predecessors? “To the generation before me, I would just love to thank them for being able to keep this tradition going, for keeping this culture going, for accepting the first generation of this. I'm the first girl in my family and just thank you for not giving up, not falling under assimilation and for keeping the heritage and the culture alive for us. And we will try our best to keep going with our culture and our heritage to our children. And if I had to say anything to future generations, I would say never be intimidated by anybody else. Always remember where you came from and what they have fought for. Make sure that you know your roots because that is what makes you. That's part of you. And always be proud of where you come from.” - Alejandra

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