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La Charreada

Mexico stock photography is a significant part of my business and I’m always on the lookout for bread n butter in the guise of archetypal Mexican imagery; a picture that is distinctly Mexican without any prompts other than the content and the context of the photograph. These are the images that advertisers love; when the picture tells the story and they can just come up with a coroborative and witty punch-line.
In February dos mil ocho the stock photo mountain came to Mohammed, on horseback.
So welcome to the ‘Lienzo Charro’, Vallarta-style.
Make up your own captions.

Google doesn’t know who Miguel “Prieto” Ibarra is and I didn’t think to ask on location in his namesake stadium, but suffice to say that the charreria took place in keyhole bullring in colonia Mojoneras in the backblocks of Vallarta at the height of the dusty season, 2008. But whether “Prieto’ was watching from the stands or is long gone and rounding up cattle in the big rancho in the sky, I’m sure he enjoyed the 6th National Charro Championship as much as I did, and these dudes too.

It’s fun for all the family and any tourists or local extranjeros who were adventurous enough to go, saw one of Mexico’s most endearing and traditional cultural activities. In the north of the country it’s more commonly called a jaripeo, but by whatever name it goes there are strict tests to pass before one becomes a true and complete charro. One could be excused for thinking that posturing and alcohol consumption were also part of the competition.

It was a scene of dust, leather, tequila, suede, sweat, cervezas, horseflesh, bravado, musica Norteño, some bewildered livestock, more beer, overworked baños, machismo, a great crowd y mas polvo. It starts under the noonday sun and ends under floodlight. I went twice and got there late afternoon, shot through sunset, twilight and into the mysterious world of sodium and neon. I haven’t processed the b&w (Neopan 1600) yet but the D2X pushed into the grainy zone of lofty ISOs did well.

A charreada is a photographer’s smorgasbord. Not only in the ring but also backstage and within the stands. The trick is to keep moving and changing the background because the fore and midground are never hard to fill in this encapsulated exhibition of man and beast.

Equal doses of active and passive lubed together by lashings of booze consumed by the watchers and the watched alike, the charreada is the equine equivalent of drink-driving with audience participation; it’s a well-paced spectacle of social interaction interspersed with spurts of activity from a long character list of willing exhibitionists and their obliging mounts.

At the Vallarta Nationals there were 3 sessions a day and 4 teams of 8 riders representing ranches and charro associations from all over the Republic. They are judged by their peers.

There is tradionally a competative sequence of 7 tests either performed individually or as a team. There’s a full description of each event at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charreria

But whether you understand the rules or the ritual is less important than appreciating the event and by interacting with and participating in the overall spectacle.

Viva Mexico!

(I’ll drink to that.)

To see more pix of the same event go to http://www.callananphoto.com/charreada/