Charreadas as Complex Celebrations of Heritage and Identity for Mexican American Women
Elyssa Ford, Northwest Missouri State University
The American professional and amateur rodeos are primarily white, male-dominated, and reward driven. The charreada (the Mexican rodeo) is something else entirely. It is a place of competition, but not one focused on the monetary reward. Rather, it is an exhibition of talent and skills, but more importantly for Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the U.S., it celebrates Mexican culture and heritage, familial ties, and the rapidly disappearing rural ranching background. Despite this importance, not all can participate equally in the charreada. Women there, just like women in almost all rodeo circuits, encounter limitations. However, despite regularly having to share horses with the male riders and at times waiting for permission from the men to practice and compete, the women in the charreada routinely deny feeling limited and rarely express an interest in expanding their ability to compete in other events. Instead, they want to participate in the charreada because of the escaramuza, which is the only event open to women, and because of the historical importance that it brings. Just as all riders in the charreada find the celebration of the past to be important, for female riders it is central to their participation. In the escaramuza, the women do not just recall but almost re-enact the specifically female involvement in the Spanish colonial era, the Mexican ranching period, and the Mexican Revolution. For them, the charreada is different than the western rodeo in that it is about more than competition and monetary prizes. It is a way for them to celebrate their cultural heritage as Mexican American women. If they were competing in another type of rodeo or even in other events within the charreada, the meaning and importance of the charreada – for them as woman – would be gone and their interest in participation would be diminished because no other rodeo or charreada event speaks to their heritage as Mexican American women in the same way that the escaramuza does.