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Experiencing the culture of Mexico in Santa Fe

Daniel Castro performs rope tricks as he and other members of the Emiliano Zapata Association entertain spectators at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. (Eddie Moore/Journal)
Daniel Castro performs rope tricks as he and other members of the Emiliano Zapata Association entertain spectators at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. (Eddie Moore/Journal)
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Thousands came out to El Rancho de las Golondrinas south of Santa Fe on Saturday to get a taste of Mexican culture – and the sights and sounds of it, as well.

¡Viva Mexico! continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with more demonstrations, workshops and performances celebrating Mexican culture.

The event is a partnership between the living history museum on Los Pinos Road in La Cienega and the Consulate of Mexico in Albuquerque, and the Mexican departments of tourism and foreign affairs.

“What we want to do is create the best experience where you enjoy the riches and traditions of Mexico,” said Consul General Mauricio Ibarra during the opening ceremony of the sixth annual celebration.

Mayor pro tem Rebecca Wurzburger also spoke during ceremony, first apologizing for Mayor David Coss’s absence.

He would have been there, she said, but the mayor happened to be south of the border experiencing Mexican culture for himself.

“It’s important to celebrate the culture that arouses Santa Fe – the music, the food, the passion for living life,” Wurzburger said, speaking in Spanish. “It’s a celebration of our diversity and respect for cultures.”

The ceremony took place just prior to the charreada, or Mexican rodeo – what Ibarra called one of the most traditional events featured at this year’s event.

“It’s a party, in general,” he said, “with food and music to go along with it.”

The charreada is also a sport, registered with the national commission, Ibarra said.

While it typically consists of nine events, only a sample was presented during a 45-minute demonstration by the Emiliano Zapata Association, a Las Cruces outfit named after the Mexican revolutionary figure.

“We were formed 38 years ago in El Paso and moved to Las Cruces in 1977,” said Thelma P.G. Castro, whose son and grandchildren are a part of the performance team. “We’re now in our fourth generation.”

Things got started with a grand entrance led by some of the younger members of the group, each decked out in colorful costumes. After the national anthems of the United States and Mexico were played, the riding and roping got underway.

Castro narrated the performance in both English and Spanish, providing details relating to each individual event.

While a charro, or cowboy, dazzled the crowd with rope tricks, Castro explained that the ropes he used were made from lechuguilla, an agave plant species found in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico.

Lluvia Castro, 6, center, and other members of the Emiliano Zapata Association perform during a traditional Mexican charreada Saturday. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Lluvia Castro, 6, center, and other members of the Emiliano Zapata Association perform during a traditional Mexican charreada Saturday. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Next was Castro’s son, Daniel, who put on an exhibition of horsemanship on his quarter horse, Chico. After commanding the horse to walk sideways, backward and spin in a circle, he and his steed took a bow before the appreciative audience.

A crowd favorite was Marsha de Zacatecas, a drill team on horseback made up of teenage girls.

“During the revolution, women played an important role as spies,” Castro explained.

The women would go into town and party with the enemy soldiers, loosening their tongues with charm and libations before taking the information they extracted back to their men.

Outfitted in petticoats and bloomers, sashes and wide brimmed hats, the girls rode sidesaddle as they crisscrossed and rode patterns around the makeshift arena.

Castro said the area they had to work with was much smaller than what they were used to, so the riders didn’t build up the speed they were accustomed to, making it “less scary.”

Daniel Castro performs rope tricks from the back of his horse during Saturday’s charreada at El Rancho de las Golondrinas.  (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Daniel Castro performs rope tricks from the back of his horse during Saturday’s charreada at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

More riding and roping followed, with one highlight being Daniel Castro jumping through his lariat while standing atop his trusty horse.

Impressed by the demonstration, Adriene Simpson, a board member of Rodeo de Santa Fe, Inc., approached Castro afterward about possibly bringing the group back to Santa Fe next year.

“We want to make it more of a multi-cultural event, and a lot of our fans come from the Hispanic community,” she said of Rodeo de Santa Fe. “I’m particularly interested in the drill team. I think it would make for good entertainment.”

In addition to the charreada, which performs again today at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., ¡Viva Mexico! includes workshops on cornhusk doll making and weaving, Mexican and mariachi music, dozens of arts and crafts vendors, and a mercado.

Ann Watkins of Chattanooga, Tenn., recommended the weaving demonstration by Bulmaro Mendoza.

“It was fascinating,” she said. “He’s a real artist.”

Watkins, who was on vacation with her husband Frank, said they decided to come to El Rancho de las Golondrinas to experience something different.

“Santa Fe has a lot of shops and museums. We were looking for something outside of that area that we couldn’t find where we’re from,” she said.

There’s also plenty of food, so patrons can taste tacos, burritos, pambazo, elote en vaso and chicharrón, to name a few.

Chocolate and mole demonstrations and tastings are on Sunday’s schedule.

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