Charreria is the official national sport of Mexico. But more than just a sport, it represents Mexican culture, tradition and history as it involves equestrian competitions in which horse riding, roping and cattle handling come in to play.
Charreria originally developed on the haciendas of Mexico where workers would try to outdo one another with their horse riding and roping skills, effectively turning these tasks into an art form. Workers from different haciendas would compete against one another at competitions. With the dissolution of the haciendas following the Mexican Revolution, charrería transitioned into a sport with formal competitions, called charreadas.
Mariachi music and charreria are intertwined; the two traditions developed concurrently in the west of Mexico. The traditional music at charreadas is performed by mariachis, who dress like charros (horse riders) but in brighter colors and with greater ornamentation.
The advent of Mexican cinema contributed to the image of the charro and solidified the association with mariachi music. Mexican actors Jorge Negrete and Pedro Infante portrayed charros in movies of the 1940s and 50s, glorifying the image of the noble charro who represented strength, masculinity and all that is Mexican.
Attend a charreada on your visit to Guadalajara to experience this cultural manifestation for yourself. Within the competition there are nine different scored events called suertes, plus an event for women riders called escaramuza. There are strict rules and the charros are scored based on speed, style and precision. The event can last for several hours so buy a cold drink and some snacks from the passing vendors and be amazed by the skill, speed and bravery of the competitors. Besides the competition aspect, the charreada is a festive event that also involves music and food.
For the best display of charreria attend the Mexican National Charro Championship, held as part of the International Mariachi and Charreria Festival in Guadalajara each September. The best mariachis and charros from around the world gather for this event, which also includes concerts and a grand parade running through the streets of Guadalajara's historic downtown district.