In parts one and two of our blog series on the origins of the Mexican Charro, we traced the history of the Charro for the last five centuries. Today, we wrap up our series by telling you all about the modern day El Charro Mexicano.
After the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century, the gatherings where the Charros trained their horses and did rope tricks almost disappeared. But the flame would not go out. They began regrouping, only this time in more serious associations.
In 1933, when the Mexican Sports Confederation (CODEME) asked all the sports associations to be constituted in federations, the “Federación Nacional de Charros” (Charros National Federation) was created.
After the “Federación Nacional de Charros” was established there were separations, new groupings, independent movements and reunions all over Mexico. Later on, they finally decided on the name of Federación Mexicana de Charrería, as we know it today.
Las Charreadas are still very common. There are prestigious championship competitions all over Mexico. For instance, imagine that you are in a magnificent Lienzo Charro, there are almost no more places to sit and people are still arriving. The atmosphere is exceptional on a sunny day. La Charreada is about to start and you can see people are anxious for the show to begin.
La Charreada opens with a parade of all the contestants. They salute the people and then get ready to start the program.
The first act, or as we say “suerte”, that you will see is called “La cala del caballo”. It shows how well-trained the Charro’s horse is and their technique in mastering the horse. The audience is quiet now and sees the first Charro racing his horse from the back to the front of the Lienzo. As he is approaching, the Charro stops the horse, creating a line on the ground. Then he and his horse turn right in circles quite rapidly, stop again and turn left in circles. They stop once more and then turn right, but this time only 90 degrees and also to the left. Now they star going backwards very slowly in a straight line before coming to the front to greet the audience and finish their first suerte.
The second suerte, or act, is called “Los piales en el lienzo”, which is one of the most difficult suertes to perform. The reason is simple: the Charro is on his horse standing still; he is handling his rope waiting for a mare to pass by him running at full speed. He has to rope the mare, tying its back legs – the faster the better – and make two loops very fast in the head of the saddle to slow the mare down. It’s a very nice suerte to watch.
The third suerte is called “El Coleadero”. Some people like this one but others don’t because the Charro has to throw a bull to the ground using its tail. The bull weighs about 1,000 lbs and comes out of the door at full speed. The Charro immediately approaches the bull on his horse and tries to grab the bull´s tail to twist it so the bull becomes unbalanced and falls, but soon stands unharmed. Time and technique are evaluated when assigning points.
The next suerte might be familiar to you: “La Jineteada del toro”, or bull riding, it’s the Charro’s opportunity to show his courage by riding a bull. The difference between bull riding in Mexico and United States is that in the U.S. the bull rider has to stay on top of the bull for eight seconds to get points. However, in Mexico they have to stay on top of the bull until the bull calms down. This is one of the most exiting and famous acts of all.
The following suerte is “La Terna”, which is super entertaining. Three Charros in the Lienzo, or Bull Ring, start chasing a bull on their horses, following the curve of the ring. The first rider ropes the bull by the neck and the second rider ropes its back legs, tying them and finally dropping the bull on the ground. Although this might sound dangerous and hard on the animals, it actually isn’t. La Federación Mexicana de Charrería really takes care of the animals. For instance, the spurs on their boots are not to hurt the animals but serve only as an extra point of support.
The sixth suerte is “La Jineteada de Yegua”, or mare riding. Participants have to ride a wild mare and stay on top of the mare until she stops running and jumping.
The seventh suerte is “Las Manganas”. This unique suerte is divided into two acts. In the first act the Charro is on foot and in the second act, he’s riding his horse. In the two acts the Charro is trying to achieve the same thing. The Charro begins to handle his rope for two purposes: The first purpose is to help the Charro make his throwing easier. The second purpose is to accumulate points. The more variety of tricks, the more points he gets. In this suerte, the Charro is trying to bring down a mare running at him at full speed. He does this by tying her front legs first and then puts his weight on them to make the mare fall down. Then the Charro has to do the same act, only this time he is on his horse. When the mare’s front legs are roped she stops abruptly and makes a turn of 180 degrees in the air, and then falls on her back without damaging any part of her body.
The eighth suerte is the most famous of all: “El paso de la muerte”, or “the death jump”. The name of this suerte is a very old Mexican saying that everyone knows about. In this suerte, the Charro is riding a horse without a saddle, running at full speed next to a wild mare that is also running at full speed. Behind them, there are another two charros following. El Charro has to make use of his balance, technique, strength and his ability to ride horses in order to jump from the horse he’s on to the wild mare. Once he does that he shows us his ability to stay on top of the mare until she calms down and stops. It is always an exciting suerte to watch.
We’re almost at the end of the Charreada show and there is only one more act. The tenth suerte features Mexican women on horseback showing their grace and charm with their beautiful and colorful dresses. There are eight women for this act, all of them riding in perfect coordination and performing a magnificent choreography. They ride in different formations, never stopping, and performing all kinds of spins, individually or in groups. They also make circles, a small one and a big one. Everything is perfectly done and very elegant.
We really hope you enjoyed our three-part series, including this last chapter on the Charreada. We love telling it because El Charro Mexicano is such a wonderful national symbol of our Mexican culture and pride.