The well-known figure of the Mexican Charro is more than just a symbol of Mexico. His unique outfit, El Traje de Charro. Is representative of the origins of Mexico. Today, we would like to bring you the first part of our story of how El Arriero became El Charro Mexicano.
Our story begins in the 16th century when the Spaniards brought horses to Mexico to help them conquer the Aztec Empire. Mexico’s indigenous people at that time were absolutely astonished by men on horses. The Aztecs believed that both the rider and the horse were one being, or beast. An understandable reaction considering that this was the very first time they had ever seen a horse.
The Aztecs saw the invaders as gods because of their horses, but also because of their cannons and firearms. This was an important reason why the Aztec empire was defeated. Another reason of even greater weight was the infectious diseases the Spaniards and their slaves brought with them, like smallpox.
In the early years of colonization, the indigenous people were part of the lowest social class and were forbidden to ride horses. But soon haciendas were built and the owners of the haciendas decided to allow indigenous people to ride horses so they could help with herding cattle and other tasks.
El Chinaco, as they were called, came from the Nahualt Chinacat, which means dirty or gnawed. They walked around the haciendas and the towns like the meaning of their name: dirty. It was easy to recognize them for their dirty appearance.
Eventually, the Chinacos became popular around town because of the prosperity of the haciendas, and their lives improved along with their clothing. They stopped wearing their old and dirty clothes and changed to more suitable trousers and jackets that were made from leather and suede. These materials were optimal for their work in the haciendas because they were abundant and resistant. Some of them used threads of silk or even gold and silver to make their clothing.
El Chinaco, or by now known as El Arriero, was known for his dexterity with horses, his courage, his mastery in the handling of the rope and his fearsome ability with the spear. But most importantly, his hard work, new clothes and his feats at the haciendas helped him make his mark on history.
El Arriero’s happy and loving spirit was widely admired. Even Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico had his own version of El Arriero’s clothes made, creating the now famous Charro suit, or El Traje de Charro.
Next time we’ll continue our story of how El Arriero became El Charro Mexicano.