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Mexico's charros are a breed apart

A Mexican charro

May 4, 1997
Web posted at: 5:35 p.m. EDT (2135 GMT)

From Correspondent Chris Kline

MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- The charros, Mexico's tough cowboys and rodeo showmen, have long symbolized the ideal of the national character. Brave, self-reliant and proud, they are as Mexicans best like to see themselves.

Charros figure in Mexico's national anthem and each year hold a place of honor in the country's Independence Day parade. They were once warriors and have not forgotten their martial heritage.

"Being a charro means all of our ancestors took part in the wars of independence, in the fight for Mexico's liberty and the revolution," says one Mexican cowboy. "It expresses our identity, our freedom, our love for the world."

Mexican charros
movie icon (1,012/25 sec. QuickTime movie)

The charro is above all a horseman, heir to a centuries-old equestrian tradition. It was the Spanish conquistadors that introduced Mexico's natives to horses and cattle. The collision of the two peoples created the cowboy culture.

The contemporary Mexican rodeo, the charreada, grew from the informal contests the cowboys held among themselves to show off ranching skills like bronco riding and roping. They describe their sport as living history, an art form drawn from the demands of a working life.

The charreada has its danger, but the charros shrug off the risks and the broken bones.

Charro tradition

"If you like it the danger doesn't matter, and if something happens, that's the game," a charro says.

Charros are passionate about their vocation -- often handed down as a family tradition from generation to generation -- and they say there is also beauty to be seen.

Sometimes the need to simplify things draws men to become charros -- to escape the complications of modern life or to find an inner place among horses and tough company.


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