We were leaving behind the grand houses and stately brick buildings of downtown San Antonio. As the car slowed to turn into the ranch, we were not so much entering no man’s land as we were entering Charro land. On the outskirts of San Antonio, this was a land of vaqueros (cowboys), caballos (horses) and silla charras (saddles.) The testosterone was running high in the cowboys, as well as the horses as Mariachi music blared from the grandstand speakers. Yet, as is to be expected during Fiesta San Antonio, an 11 day party, there is a feminine side to the celebration and it is seen in the Escaramuza Charra.
Escaramuza Charra in San Antonio
Young ladies, ranging in ages from 8-15, dressed in festive colored skirts, hide pantaloons and boots under their many layers of clothing, as they ride horses side saddle in synchronized exercises. The giant sombreros mask the looks of concentration on the rider’s faces as they weave intricate patterns in the arena – all while galloping full speed on horseback, dresses flapping, horse’s manes and tails flying.
Charreada Charras dress in traditional clothing and compete in the Escaramuza, riding horseback side saddle. Samantha Lopez, 13, of Austin, Texas, is the Team Captain. Riding her Quarter Horse, Cielo, she leads an eight member Escaramuza team, El Rosario.
“My mom introduced me to this sport” said Lopez, Team Captain of El Rosario, “The most difficult challenge is balancing on horseback while riding side saddle,” added Lopez.
The Austin, Texas-based team has only been practicing two years together, yet they placed second recently in the 2012 pre-state finals. There are 19 teams in the Texas Escaramuza competition. Each team of eight girls and eight horses must complete 12 exercises during the 8-10 minute routine.
Experience an authentic Mexican custom
A Charreada (or Charrería) is the national sport of Mexico and is deeply rooted in customs that go back for centuries. What began as a way to prepare horses and riders for war, has since evolved into an equestrian competition featuring horse reining, bull riding and roping skills. At this Charreada, Charros in traditional clothes compete in various events including the Escaramuza when a team of young women wearing ranchera dresses ride side saddle and perform horse ballet that requires precise horsemanship and skill.
Charros on horseback
Before cowboys existed there were Charros. These Mexican cowboys not only rope cows, they perform rope dances on stage during Fiesta. I had the chance to speak with the 2012 Charro Queen Kellie Ramos. Her role as the Charro Queen is to help preserve the Mexican culture of the Charro.
To find out what’s happening during Fiesta Days in San Antonio, Texas follow them on Twitter. For all things San Antonio, follow Visit San Antonio on Twitter. For all things travel related, follow Nancy D. Brown on Twitter, as well as on Instagram.
If You Go:
6125 Padre Dr, San Antonio, Texas
Article, photos and YouTube video courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Charro Ranch and San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau.