Charro

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Charros at a horse show in Pachuca, Hidalgo
Female and male charro regalia, including sombreros de charro
Charros competing in a charreada in Mexico
After the Mexican War of Independence was over one of the major generals Agustín de Iturbide rides into Mexico City victoriously with his generals many of which were charros that served in his army.

A charro is a traditional horseman from Mexico, originating in the central-western regions primarily in the states of Jalisco, Michoacan, Zacatecas, Durango, Chihuahua, Aguascalientes and Guanajuato. The Spanish terms vaquero and ranchero (cowboy and rancher) are similar to the charro but different in culture, etiquette, mannerism, clothing, tradition and social status.

Charreada has become the official sport of Mexico and maintains traditional rules and regulations in effect from colonial times up to the Mexican Revolution.[1]

Etymology[edit]

The word charro is first documented in Spain in the 17th century (1627) as a synonym of "person who stops" (basto), "person who speaks roughly" (tosco), "person of the land" (aldeano), "person with bad taste",[2] and attributes its origins to the Basque language from the word txar which means "bad", "weak", "small". The Real Academia maintains the same definition and origin.[3]

Origins[edit]

Emiliano Zapata wearing a charro suit

The Viceroyalty of New Spain had prohibited Native Americans from riding or owning horses, with the exception of the Tlaxcaltec nobility, other allied chieftains, and their descendants. However, cattle raising required the use of horses, for which farmers would hire cowboys who were prefereably mestizo and, rarely, Indians. Some of the requirements for riding a horse were that one had to be employed by a plantation, had to use saddles that differed from those used by the military, and had to wear leather clothing from which the term "cuerudo" (leathered one) originated.

Over time landowners and their employees, starting with those living in the Mexican Plateau and later the rest of the country, adapted their cowboy style to better suit the Mexican terrain and temperature, evolving away from the Spanish style of cattle raising. After the Mexican War of Independence horse riding grew in popularity. Many riders of mixed race became mounted mercenaries, messengers and plantation workers. Originally known as Chinacos, these horsemen later became the modern "vaqueros". Wealthy plantation owners would often acquire decorated versions of the distinctive Charro clothing and horse harness to display their status in the community. Poorer riders would also equip their horses with harness made from agave or would border their saddles with chamois skin.

Mexican War of Independence and the 19th century[edit]

As the Mexican War of Independence began in 1810 and continued for the next 11 years, charros were very important soldiers on both sides of the war. Many haciendas, or Spanish owned estates, had a long tradition of gathering their best charros as a small militia for the estate to fend off bandits and marauders. When the War for Independence started, many haciendas had their own armies in an attempt to fend off early struggles for independence.[4]

After independence was achieved in 1821, political disorder made law and order hard to establish throughout much of Mexico. Large bands of bandits plagued the early 18th century as a result of lack of legitimate ways for social advance. One of the most notable gang was called "the silver ones" or the "plateados", these thieves dressed as traditional wealthy charros adorning their clothing and saddles with lots of silver channeling the elite horseman image.[5] The bandit gangs would disobey or buy out government establishing their own profit and rules.

Towards the mid 19th century however, President Juarez established the "rurales" or mounted rural police to crack down on gangs and enforce national law across Mexico. It was these rurales that helped to establish the charro look as one of manhood, strength, and nationhood.[6] Charros were quickly seen as national heroes as Mexican politicians in the late 19th century pushed for the romanticizing charro lifestyle and image as an attempt to unite the nation over this legendary figure.

Early twentieth-century usage[edit]

Saddle of a charro (Mexico, 19th century)

Prior to the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the distinctive charro suit, with its sombrero, heavily embroidered jacket and tightly cut trousers, was widely worn by men of the affluent upper classes on social occasions, especially when on horseback.[7] A light grey version with silver embroidery served as the uniform of the rurales (mounted rural police).[8]

However, the most notable example of 'charreria' is General Emiliano Zapata who was known before the revolution as a skilled rider and horse tamer.

Although it is said that Charros came from the state of Jalisco and the state of Mexico, it was not until the 1930s that charreria became a rules sport when rural people began moving towards the cities. During this time, paintings of charros also became popular.

Use of term[edit]

The traditional Mexican charro is known for colorful clothing and participating in coleadero y charreada, a specific type of Mexican rodeo. The charreada is the national sport in Mexico, and is regulated by the Federación Mexicana de Charrería.

In Spain, a charro is a native of the province of Salamanca, especially in the area of Alba de Tormes, Vitigudino, Ciudad Rodrigo and Ledesma.[9] It's likely that the Mexican charro tradition derived from Spanish horsemen who came from Salamanca and settled in Jalisco.

In cinema[edit]

The "charro film" was a genre of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema between 1935 and 1959, and probably played a large role in popularizing the charro, akin to what occurred with the advent of the American Western. The most notable charro stars were José Alfredo Jiménez, Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Antonio Aguilar, and Tito Guizar.[10]

Modern day[edit]

In both Mexican and US states such as California, Texas, Illinois, Zacatecas, Durango, and Jalisco, charros participate in tournaments to show off their skill either in team competition charreada, or in individual competition such as el coleadero. These events are practiced in a Lienzo charro.

Some decades ago charros in Mexico were permitted to carry guns. In conformity with current law, the charro must be fully suited and be a fully pledged member of Mexico's Federación Mexicana de Charrería.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ REGLAMENTO GENERAL DE COMPETENCIAS
  2. ^ J. Corominas, 2008, p. 172
  3. ^ Diccionario de la Real Academia Española
  4. ^ Nájera-Ramírez, Olga (1994). "Engendering Nationalism: Identity, Discourse, and the Mexican Charro". Anthropological Quarterly. 67 (1): 1–14. doi:10.2307/3317273. JSTOR 3317273.
  5. ^ Nájera-Ramírez, Olga (1994). "Engendering Nationalism: Identity, Discourse, and the Mexican Charro". Anthropological Quarterly. 67 (1): 1–14. doi:10.2307/3317273. JSTOR 3317273.
  6. ^ Castro, Rafaela (2000). Chicano Folklore: A Guide to the Folktales, Traditions, Rituals and Religious Practices of Mexican Americans. OUP USA. ISBN 9780195146394.
  7. ^ pages 27-28, "The City of Mexico in the Age of Diaz", Michael Johns, ISBN 978-0-292-74048-8
  8. ^ Paul J.Vanderwood, pages 54-55 "Disorder and Progress - Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development", ISBN 0-8420-2438-7
  9. ^ charro in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española.
  10. ^ p. 6 Figueredo, Danilo H. Revolvers and Pistolas, Vaqueros and Caballeros: Debunking the Old West ABC-CLIO, 9 Dec 2014
  11. ^ Camara de Diputados. "Ley Federal de Armas de Fuego y Explosivos (Articulo 10 Seccion VII)" (PDF). Secretaria de Gobernacion. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 14, 2015. Retrieved May 5, 2015.]

External links[edit]