Calas, Colas, Escaramuza—Oh My!

Embrace Mexico’s national sport, charrería.

By Jessica Hein

The stands lining the circular end of the keyhole-shaped Lienzo Charro arena are jam-packed. Music thumps almost as loud as the delighted squeals coming from children galloping up and down the aisles in a grand game of tag, as their families greet friends, chat and wait for festivities to begin. At the far end of the arena, horsemen warm up their mounts—their sombreros and wide-horned charro saddles hinting that this won’t be like a rodeo you’ve seen in the United States. As the last rays of sunlight stream through the lienzo’s windows and dance across the sand like Mexico’s famed bullfighters, the event commences and a flurry of activities explode. No, this certainly isn’t like rodeos north of the border. This is charrería.

A Rich History

Like most rodeo-based competitions, charrería evolved as friendly ranch-work competitions between neighboring haciendas. It’s Mexico’s national sport, and more than 1,000 charro organizations ensure there’s never a shortage of competition in any corner of the country. Juan Pedro Rodriguez Gutierrez lives in Guadalajara, Jalisco; he’s been involved with charrería since age 14. He remains involved in the sport today, managing Rancho San Bartolo and assisting more than 300 breeding programs in Mexico with their U.S. registrations for APHA and other organizations.

“In Mexico, charrería is the national sport par excellence, the basis of our tradition of men and women on horseback,” Juan Pedro said. “In general, charrería is a summary of how cattle and horses were worked in Mexico in ancient times, which makes it very interesting to learn about the different ways in which ranches evolved in Mexico. The horse industry revolves mainly around the charrería.”

A charrería typically features a number of events; among them are jineteo de toro (bull riding), terna en el ruedo (team roping), jineteo de yegua (bareback riding aboard a wild mare) and paso de la muerte (where a charro leaps from the back of his horse onto a wild, bridleless bronc at a full gallop, and rides until he can stop and dismount). Three events, however, capture charros’ hearts, thanks to the precision, teamwork and training they require.


This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2023 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.