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Monday, May 21, 2012

The Rodeo!

I mentioned in my last post that Wally and I took advantage of a dual event, a train ride that also included entrance to a rodeo being held at the El Prado fair grounds. This was during the festival celebrating, Semana Criolla (the week of the Criolla). This festival is in it's 87th year. Because I was busy going to Spanish school I just realized that I never got around to posting about the rodeo. So better late than never! There were actually 2 rodeos held in different locations and in different weeks. I attended the first week's rodeo held in Montevideo, the Capital of Uruguay.

 Those tickets were free with the train ride. Maybe next year, I'll go to the bigger one held some weeks later in the town of Minas some distance away.

The cowboy is still very much alive here in Uruguay, only we call him a Gaucho! This term Gaucho, is also used in Argentina and in Southern Brazil (the Rio Grande do Sul area). In Northern Brazil they are called Vaqueiro (the same term as used in Spain and Mexico). Criolla is a term also associated with the Gaucho here in Uruguay. Although in modern usage the word Criolla (Criollo,Criollos, Criollas) that is found in various Latin American Countries(Argentina, Chili, Southern Brazil/Rio Grande do Sul and Uruguay) usually means
A Spanish American of European, usually Spanish descent.
It can refer to anything from that national American-born person, to a style of music (Cuban), a couple of band names, Tobacco leaves originating from Cuba and used in wrapping cigars, a type of food (Mexican cheese, a hot condiment/Puerto Rico and Peru, a cuisine dish of food/Venezuela) or a breed of livestock (horses, sheep).

Here in Uruguay, Criolla has come to represent another meaning, that of, the country or  from the countryside. The term Criolla or from the countryside is tied into the idea of the Gaucho's whole way of life. Gauchos, as the wikipedia states, "gauchos made up the majority of the rural population, herding cattle on the vast estancias, and practising hunting as their main economic activities.

Rodeos also typify Gauchos. Just like the cowboys of North America, these South American gauchos use horses extensively in herding cattle. Here in South American, cattle still roam on open plains, the majority of them being grass fed and not consigned to feed lots.  In Argentina, the Gauchos drove cattle in the Pampas, the great central plain (grassland) in the Patagonia area, that borders the Andes, Uruguay and Brazil. Argentina has always been noted for their great tasting grass fed beef. Here in Uruguay we too are noted for our great tasting beef. This is a land of beef eaters (and meat in general). It is very hard to be a vegetarian here! Uruguay has even started to import beef over to Argentina!

  Okay, I have to breakdown, one more time and quote the Wikipedia, as to the gaucho and his horse.

"gauchos were and remain proud and great horseriders. Typically, a gaucho's horse constituted most of what he owned in the world. During the wars of the 19th century in the Southern Cone, the cavalries on all sides were composed almost entirely of gauchos.
The gaucho diet was composed almost entirely of beef while on the range, supplemented by yerba mate, an herbal tea-like drink rich in caffeine and nutrients. Argentine cooking draws influence from the simple but delicious recipes used in gaucho meals."

That statement from the Wikipedia about gauchos being and remaining proud and great horse riders is clearly shown in my opening photo! Most of the photos that I took of them during the rodeo seemed to show them proudly posing! They still dress in their distinctive style of clothing. They take pride in the tools of their trade, whether it's in the horses themselves (nicely well fed) or in the various articles they use like saddles, ropes, and knives, etc... 

You can see the craftsmanship in the saddle photo. Saddles here are not in the "Western style"as in North America (the saddle horn is also missing)  The rider will usually put a sheep skin over the horse's back then add this saddle.

There is a Gaucho museum in Montevideo that I will be posting about in a future blog post. 


Anonymous said...

Thank you for another great post. I genuinely look forward to each and every one.

Seamus said...

Two things I've noticed in your exterior shots of festivals and parks: While there are plenty of people, they are not elbow to elbow and climbing all over each other. Looks very comfortable and enjoyable.

Second, the stadiums, fairgrounds and parks are not the brand new, super high tech, purpose built, plastic and neon stuff we have here in Norteamérica. The facilities by you seem to have much more simplicity, age, character, and grace.

Things seem to be designed to relax people and let them enjoy themselves rather than to be a maniacal thrill ride.

Anonymous said...

I’m so happy to see a post in your blog about cowboy festivals, which in Brazil is a very popular tradition called “rodeio”... so I could not resist posting a comment!
Normally in Brazil we don’t use the word “vaquero” to designate a cowboy... we have a similar word in Portuguese - “vaqueiro” - but that’s more for a herder of cattle... we use the term “peão de boiadeiro” to designate cowboys... and for us “gauchos” are the inhabitants of Rio Grande do Sul (Great Southern River), the southernmost state of Brazil... just like “cariocas” are the inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro and so on an so forth.
There are many cowboy festivals all over Brazil, but one of the oldest and largest (actually in the world) takes place in Barretos, which is a city located in the Northern part of the state of São Paulo.
It holds a huge festival which is part rodeo, part state fair, part country-music festival (Brazilian country music is known as “Música Sertaneja” or just “Sertanejo”) and part spring break. Since its founding in the 50s the festival has become world famous for its scale - more than 1.5 million people are expected to pass through the turnstiles during the 10-day event - and the high quality of cowboys, horses and bulls... as well as famous singers... last year they had Mariah Carey, Shania Twain among others.
They say that the festival has its origins in the transfer of cattle from pasturing in the nearby states to slaughterhouses in Barretos. The festival is now one of the most eagerly anticipated dates on Brazil's festival calendar. It’s an obligatory stop not only for the nation's partygoers but also for Brazil's big advertisers, who pour millions into sponsoring the event.
The following video will give you a flavour of what this popular event looks like:
Best regards,

Anonymous said...

Hello Denise,
I have always heard that Polo is a national sport in Argentina and some of the finest polo players come from that country… they are the best in the world in this discipline. What about the neighbouring Uruguay? Is it the same?
Best regards,