Alex Kurunis: ¡Vamos al Charrería!

  • Photography  Alex Kurunis

The following project, which was photographed by Alex Kurunis in Mexico, January 2020, depicts the spectators and participants of the tradition of ‘El Charreada’, the official national sport of the country since 1933.

Over the course of two consecutive Sunday afternoons, Alex visited Lienzo Charro de la Villa, close to the famous church of Guadelupe, on the periphery of Mexico City. Charrerías take place in arenas in almost every Mexican city and represent a key part of the country’s history. This year, Lienzo Charro de la Villa, visited by Alex, celebrates its 88th anniversary.

The Charrería is a competitive sport similar to rodeo which stems from 17th Century colonial Mexico. Charrería developed from animal husbandry traditions in the haciendas of the time. Unlike rodeos, events are not timed; they are judged with each team gaining points on their performance for each event. Finesse, handling and elegance of the performance preside over speed. The Charro is the term used for the riders of the sport. The Charros must follow very strict guidelines, from the way they carry themselves in the arena to the details of their outfits. Every component of their riding gear, such as their hats, spurs and leathers, must meet traditional criteria in order for the riders to take part.

The styles of dress and customs at the Charrería have been credited with influencing ‘cowboy style’, and they have been labelled as the original cowboys. The sport can be seen as a ‘living history’ intrinsic to the fabric of Mexican heritage nationwide.

The ‘Charro’ way of life, as it has been described, entails living and breathing the culture of the Charrería, including attending competitions as a family every weekend. The Charrería provides a strong community of friends and families. From the young boys and teenagers eagerly training to be like their fathers, to the older generation, who watch with joy, reminiscing about their former days of riding, the Charrería offers intergenerational enjoyment.

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