Thursday, September 14 was the Dia del Charro, a day earmarked annually around Mexico for the celebration of charreria, a competitive tradition similar to rodeo in the United States.
This year’s holiday had special significance, however, thanks to a ceremony taking place in Mexico City during which the tradition was officially recognized by UNESCO as a part of Mexico’s intangible cultural heritage. Notable among the participants were members of several of Jalisco’s own charro associations, some of the oldest in the country.
A tradition which grew out of a variety of tasks associated with animal husbandry on ranches around the country, charreria evolved over the course of centuries – in a manner not unlike its stateside cousin – into a series of competitions, including reining, heeling, steer tailing, bull riding, team roping, and bareback riding on wild mares.
Charreria’s entry into the U.N, list actually occurred last year, during the 11th convocation of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage, in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia; last week’s ceremony gave UNESCO the opportunity to show its appreciation for the centuries-old tradition in person, at Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology.
Present at the ceremony, along with several UNESCO officials, were representatives of the National Association of Charros and several regional associations, including two from Jalisco: Asociacion de Charros de Tuna Alta and Asociacion de Charros de Jalisco.
The Jalisco state government was represented by Myriam Vachez, director of the Ministry of Culture for her boss, governor Aristoteles Sandoval. In an address before the event’s attendants, Vachez didn’t miss the opportunity to boast of Jalisco’s previous contributions to the roster of Mexico’s UNESCO-recognized cultural heritage.
“Its a moment of pride for all of Mexico, especially for Jalisco,” proclaimed Vachez. “As our governor has said, ‘Even if we’re not all charros, we all share the charreria. With this honor, Jalisco can now take pride in three demonstrations of Jalisciense identity, the other two being the paisaje agavero [Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila] and mariachi.”
In 2003, the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was created by UNESCO as a means by which to promote and protect traditions they deem cultural significant, treating them in the same way as, say, the historical center of Florence, or the Pyramids of Giza. There are hundreds of entries the world over, from the Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges to Arabic coffee in the Middle East, and potential nominees are constantly being considered by the Convention’s governing body. Some of Mexico’s previous admissions are Pirekua, the traditional song of the Purepecha people and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Matt Fink