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'Escaramuzas' in San Diego keep Mexico's oldest equestrian tradition alive

Escaramuzas started in the 1950s, but became recognized as girls-only competitive events in 1992.

SAN DIEGO — A group of young girls from Chula Vista and Bonita have continued a traditional Mexican equestrian sport here in San Diego. 

The sport is called Escaramuza Charreria and their team name is called El Lucero, it's an all women's horseback riding team that competes against other women's teams in Mexico.

These young riders wearing a sombrero and a colorful high-necked dress ballooning over a petticoat and riding side-saddle is exactly how they practice.

“I started riding when I was 2,” said six-year-old Gianna Jara.

The Escaramuzas, or female rodeo riders as old as 17 and as young as five-years-old get dressed in their Mexican attire and then practice with an instructor at a small ranch in Bonita, performing dangerous maneuvers at high speeds while riding. 

Credit: CBS 8
El Lucero Escaramuza team practicing on a self-made arena in Bonita, San Diego.

Once they have mastered several stunts they will get to compete in Mexico. 

“A lot of people describe it as synchronized swimming but on horses, we have 12 exercises that we do and we have music with it, it’s just a little routine,” said Arlyne Campos, who is 13-years-old.

Arlyne said they are not just doing it for leisure, these riders are hoping to share the same passion that their grandparents once had, by keeping traditional Charreria or Mexican rodeo alive on both sides of the border. 

Many grandkids who are Mexican Americans, are forgetting the sport. The older generation fear they will no longer recognize the sport that is known as a cultural identity.

“I'm really happy it’s like a great experience to actually do the sport that my grandparents have been doing,” said Jara. 

Credit: CBS 8

What is Escaramuza Charrería

Escaramuzas started in the 1950s, but became recognized as girls-only competitive events in 1992. Escaramuzas expand the boundaries of the male sport of charrería. Escaramuza competitions are scored on skill, grace, and elegance. As escaramuza charras, girls reclaim their Mexican cultural heritage and affirm their Mexican American identity.

What is Charrería

  • Charrería is Mexico's national sport that consists of male rodeo students and it is passed down from generation to generation. Charro associations and escaramuza teams in the United States register with the Mexican Federation of Charrería in Mexico. The FMCH is responsible for regulating the sport's practice.
  • Escaramuzas are also honoring old female Mexican soldiers who once fought alongside men back in the 1920’s wearing similar gowns.
  • They were called the Adelitas’ and it was a nickname given to women soldiers or soldaderas who fought in battle during Mexico’s Revolutionary War from 1910-1920.   
  • The ladies practicing now are preserving that same strength and women empowerment while riding.
Credit: cbs 8
Two Escaramuza Charras proud of each-other after hearing they are heading to Nationals.

“I think it’s important because escaramuza comes from a background of mexican adelitas who were in the Mexican Revolution,” said Campos.

Many of the young riders even told CBS 8 their parents first encouraged them, but it was the determination and courage that they saw in other young girls that motivated them to learn the sport.

Especially because Mexican rodeo used to be a male dominated sport, but that quickly changed with escaramuzas.

“There was a lot of empowerment because they actually thought that the girls weren’t able to do what the girls were doing and I think they do it better,” said Alejandra Shelton who is the instructor for the team called El Lucero. 

Alejandra, developed an immense passion for Mexican equestrian, knowing the El Lucero team is one of three teams in San Diego and have now become one of the few to go to nationals. The team is hoping to gallop their way to first place and make their family proud at the Zacatecas, Mexico Escaramuza championship in November. 

WATCH RELATED: San Diego Latina breaks through male-dominated auto industry (Aug. 2022).


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