, 2022-06-10 02:00:00,
A halo of dust rises from the sandy arena as eight young girls on horseback trot in a tight circle. They’re wearing red dresses embroidered with flowers, and their skirts flash by in streaks of color as their horses come within inches of each other and then fan out again in perfect symmetry. Two coaches call out instructions in Spanish, their voices echoing across the ring. I watch from the sidelines, unsure what impresses me more: that these tricks are performed side-saddle—or that the eldest of the riders is only nine years old.
I’m here at Escaramuza las Margaritas in Guadalajara to learn more about escaramuza charras, or Mexico’s female equestrians. Escaramuzas execute highly choreographed, ballet-like performances on horseback at charrerias, Mexican livestock and rodeo shows. Charreria is the official national sport of Mexico, and it is an immense source of cultural pride in the country. Added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016, charreria evolved from the ranching traditions that Spanish colonists developed on their large haciendas during the 16th century. Much like rodeos in the United States, charreria has its own unique music, food, and traditional costume associated with the sport—historians believe that it gave rise to and influenced the American rodeo scene during the 19th century.
By the 1930s, charreria evolved into something like Mexico’s version of polo and was a favorite hobby of the wealthy. But over the decades, charreria has become a larger symbol of Mexican heritage, particularly for immigrants who brought the sport to the States to preserve their heritage.
Historically, only men performed in charreria; they are known as charros. Lasso-wielding cowboys dressed to the nines in rodeo-wear and sombreros, they drip machismo—escaramuzas are their female counterparts. Escaramuza…
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