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An arriero loading a pack horse in southern Chile

An arriero is a person who transports goods using pack animals. In South America, arrieros transport coffee, maize, cork, wheat, and myriad other items. They remain common in the paisa region (Antioquia and the Colombian Coffee-Growers Axis) of Colombia. In English, an arriero is one form of muleteer, a wrangler of pack animals. In the Catalan language, an arriero is a traginer.

In California, arrieros, or muleteers, work out of pack stations. A muleteer can also be known as a muleskinner, a more informal term.[1] The term muleskinner means someone who can "skin", or outsmart, a mule.

"Monument to the Arriero" in Envigado, Colombia

In Europe, there are still arrieros in the south of Portugal and the southwest of Spain, in the cork producing area. The role of the arrieros is now limited to transporting the cork with their mules, out of the Mediterranean oak forest to more accessible routes, where modern means of transport are available.


  • The Catalan word traginer comes from the Latin word tragīnare, a variant of tragĕre which means to transport.
  • The English word muleteer comes from the French muletier, from Old French, from mulet, diminutive of mul, mule.
  • The Spanish word arriero is derived from the verb arrear that means to urge the cattle or other animals to walk. The verb itself is derived from 'arre', which is the call used to cry to the animals with this purpose.


Typical arriero outfits vary from country to country:

  • Carriel: Leather bag traditionally made of nutria leather. It is used to carry personal goods and money. It has become an element of the Colombian fashion.
  • Espadrilles (alpargatas) : Sandals made of fique (natural fiber obtained of furcraea plants and leather.
  • Machete
  • Poncho: Rectangular piece of fabric, usually white with linear embroided, that is used to protect the face and neck from the cold weather.
  • Ruana: Square wool garment, larger than the poncho, with a hole in the middle for the head. It covers the torso.
  • Straw hat (sombrero aguadeño)
  • Tapapinche: Leather apron.

In popular culture[edit]

The fictional Juan Valdez, brand representative of the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, is an archetypal arriero carrying coffee sacks with this mule.

In Cormac McCarthy's second Border Trilogy novel, The Crossing, Billy's wolf upsets the arrieros' burros, which wreaks substantial havoc before Billy moves on.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mule skinner | Define Mule skinner at". Retrieved 2015-06-01. 
  2. ^ McCarthy, Cormack. The Crossing. pp. 24–25 (Book Index 5). 

External links[edit]