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Mariachis and horses: the festival begins

Music, horses and costumes. What more could you ask. The XXIX International Mariachi FEstival

Readers of this column will recall that last week I explained that Ticketmaster has foiled my attempts to buy tickets to the International Mariachi Festival in Guadalajara, which began this week, so I opted for the free satellite events.

We did attend the free concert at the Malecon (boardwalk) in the county seat, Chapala, and enjoyed a great lineup of world-class bands an singers, who performed both classical songs and modern tunes l mariachi style. But it was standing room only, (my press pass got me into the VIP area, but not my wife and dog, who were with me), so after enjoying a a few songs we realized that the sound system was so good, we could retire to a nearby restaurant, enjoy dinner and hear the bands quite clearly, which we did.

The next day we attended another satellite event, the Charrería – often known as a Mexican rodeo, but actually much more. Mariachi is a key element of the Charrería , reflecting mariachi’s role in Mexican society as more than just music, but is an integral part of the important events in life like marriage and quinceañera and even celebration of the dead.  Mariachi is also an integral part of sporting events, especially the Charrería .

One of the most interesting, colorful and dangerous competitions in the Charrería  is the Escaramuza, which requires mariachi music.  It is the only women’s event  and it consists of 8 women (or girls because some are as young as 13) riding sidesaddle on  highly  trained horses while wearing  multiple petticoats and traditional long dresses, in fast and very precise military-type horse drills, to the music of the Mariachi.

The International Mariachi Festival’s Charrería  attracts Escaramuza teams from around Mexico and the three best national teams competed.  The band held forth with songs extolling Mexico while the women cantered their horses into the ring, circled, and executed their drills. The audience held  its collective breath as the women circled, split into groups, and rode through each other’s groups without colliding

Sometimes the music stopped while the band members watched in awe as the woman and young girls on huge horses deftly maneuvered around and through each other without a mishap at high speed. One mistake and there could be bodies on the ground, possibly kicked or trampled.

The entire scene – the Escaramuza, the roping and riding, lariat demonstrations, pageantry of the parades of  men and women in colorful costumes on fine horses with fancy saddles and   bridles to the music of one of the Mexico’s great Mariachis was magnificent. I have posted video with this column of the Escaramuzas. There was no press box – the media lined up in the aisles while families jostled us on their way to seats or concessions, so there are some shaking in the video but you can hear the music  and  see the costumes and drills.

Next week: a night of acoustic rock and roll. Mexican style

Patrick O’Heffernan



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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (429 Articles)
Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist based in Mexico, with a global following. He focuses on music in English and Spanish that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America, especially Mexico like cumbia, banda, son jarocho, and mariachi. He is also edits a local news website and is a subeditor of a local Spanish language newspaper. Check out his weekly column Music Sin Frontera on Sunday nights.

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