Updated: May 16, 2019
The “Charro” image
The image of the "Charro” has traveled around the world and it is recognized everywhere as original from Mexico. It consists of a man that wears a special suit to ride a horse, a broad-brimmed hat, a rope and a gun. This image is specially related to the villagers of the occidental part of Mexico, specifically to Los Altos de Jalisco, region in which it is said that the love for “la Charrería”, nests in the core of the heart of each villager.
The "Charro”, horseman born in the cattle-farming realm, also wears some invisible, yet invaluable, garments: the romantic idea of freedom, the migration and the country lifestyle. Despite of being born in Mexico, this character has deep roots from Andalucía, Salamanca and traits inherited from the Arabic horse riders. He has two divergent brothers: The gaucho and the llanero. Charro, gaucho and llanero share a passionate, zealous, vehement, fast and sentimental nature and certain artistic qualities as well: The ease to create verses, play songs and the presence of a “descriptive and patriotic” muse, in whose heart they seek refuge, to defend their identity and preserve their traditions while facing the threat of the “cosmopolitan onslaughts”.
“Charrería” is very important in the cultural dimension and in the generation of a national identity. Its richness lies in the great quantity of symbols it includes, among which the aesthetic dimension is highlighted, this includes the expression through crafts such as saddlery and carpentry; mariachi music, dance, literature, paintings, and poetry. And also others such as the gastronomy and the tight bond with the tequila production, as the national drink.
Besides the previous elements, which are highly important in the construction of a nationalist speech, in a more popular and broad sense, "Charrería" is a national sport, through which the "Charro" can prove the skills, strength, and sophisticated training of his animals, as well as the quality of his livestock during festivals and shows called "Charreadas" or “fiestas Charras”. It is said that the event performed in these festivities “are the same labor performed in the fields as part of farming, but beautified as an art” (Gallegos, 1996).
In general terms, we can say that there are two ways –sometimes opposed, but most of the times complementary of each other- to understand " Charrería”: As a tradition and as a sport. We could say that the "Charro", as known in the present time, is a result of a bridge between a lost tradition and a sport created at the beginning of the XX century. In conclusion, the "Charro" has transitioned from a rural space, to become part of a sport, an art, organized and exciting. The final figure of this process, has condensed diverse items, some evident for any eye: the horse, leatherwork, the hat, the rope, the gun and also some invisible elements, but certainly present: a way of life, an aesthetic component, and also an ethic.