Hundreds of people descended on the historic Rancho del Charro on the city’s Southside Sunday afternoon to watch escaramuzas mount spirited horses, charros perform rope tricks, and bulls toss riders back and forth during one of Fiesta‘s most popular events: A Day In Old Mexico and Charreada.

A charro rides a bull at A Day in Old Mexico & Charreada. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The culturally rich event included plenty of food, beer, and a stream of performances to celebrate a tradition deeply rooted in both Mexico and the United States. In addition to Sunday’s charreada, hundreds of attendees soaked up the sounds of live Mariachi music and watched as the 2017 Rey Feo LXIX Fred Reyes was honored.

For many participants, the charreada is much more than entertainment – it’s an art form. Horses galloping through the dirt arena as charros sling their lassos and perform rope tricks while spectators “ooh and aah” is a way for riders to preserve their Mexican culture. It’s reminiscent of a simpler time, when ranchers and cowboys dotted the countryside en masse.

A charro prepares his horse for A Day in Old Mexico & Charreada. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

In essence, the charreada is a cultural expression of the vaquero, or cowboy, and people have participated in competitions since the Spanish colonization of Mexico.

Charrería has its roots in the state of Hidalgo and Jalisco and is considered one of the most representative traditions in Mexican culture. As an equestrian school, it originated in the Apám plains in Hidalgo. The tradition can be traced back to the 19th century, when landed gentry prepared horses and riders for war. It later evolved into an equestrian competition featuring horse reining, bull riding, and artistic roping skills and became a national sport after the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century. During this time, old landowners migrated to cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara, where they began to form associations that gradually spread throughout the country and led to the organized charrería.

Today’s charros wear the traditional clothes and use horse equipment as required by the Federation of Charros in MexicoThe Asociación de Charros de San Antonio has been carrying on the tradition of Charrería for more than 59 years.

“There is a difference between a cowboy and a charro,” Francisco Perez told the Rivard Report. “The cowboy does it for the pay, and the charro does it for the love of the sport.”

Francisco Perez stands at the entrance to the arena at A Day in Old Mexico & Charreada. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther worked as a reporter and editorial assistant for the Rivard Report from June 2016 to October 2017. Rocío writes about immigration, the U.S.-Mexico relationship, and culinary scenes. She...

Bonnie Arbittier

Bonnie Arbittier is a photojournalist raised in upstate New York and rural Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Fine Arts and French. After completing...

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