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'Escaramuza,' the all-female horseback riding sport, is a Mexican tradition that lives on in Colorado

"It is passion, it is discipline, it is having responsibility with your horses, with your team. For me, apart from all that, it is also part of your identity."
Credit: Chris Sessions
Escaramuza Flor de Aguileña

COLORADO, USA — Bravery, skill and a touch of femininity is what unfolds when the escaramuza makes an appearance in the world of charrería. The rodeo-like sport, is a Mexican tradition that has been passed down generation after generation.

Officially declared a national sport in Mexico, escaramuza is an all-female equestrian sport within charrería, or Mexican rodeo, where women ride side saddle as they perform amazing choreography at lightning speeds.

To Coloradan Naiomy Torres, 31, escaramuza isn't just a sport. It's about tradition and culture that she wants to keep in her family. She is the mother of three boys, and just like her, they were born into charrería.

Her father formed one of the first charrería  teams in Colorado.

"I always loved horses," Torres said. "As a very young child, I fell off the horse, and it scared me, but at age nine I got back on the saddle, and I loved it."

Torres grew up in the charrería  world, but she didn't know about escaramuza until the age of 10. She remembers vividly seeing her first performance at the stock show and learning that same day that one performer was as young as her. That sparked her interest in the sport.

"When I went to my first national [escaramuza competition], I think it was in Apaseo. I don't remember what year it was," she said. "That's when I saw all the escaramuzas compete. I saw the whole show, how it all worked. That's when I became more interested. It was then that I found a team back in Colorado, and I started practicing. Three years later, I formed my own team."

Torres is the founder of Escaramuza Charra Flor de Aguileña, named after Colorado's columbine flower.

Credit: Fernando Duran-Alcantar
Escaramuza Flor de Aguileña

According to Torres, the sport is becoming more popular, even with the newer generations and the American way of life.

"I think it's growing a lot more, not just in Mexico but here in the United States," she said. "It's something that a lot of media sources are looking into, to know more about the escaramuza. Women are getting more into the charrería because usually, the charrería is dominated by more men. The presidents are men, our PUA. There is already a state that I know of that has a woman as the president of a charro association. New generations are giving us our highest voice."

This year during the first weekend of Hispanic Heritage Month, a coronation for a new queen of escaramuza took place in Colorado.

The queen, who is selected every four years, will represent her state, promote and grow the sport and represent all of the charro teams and escaramuzas in Colorado.

Credit: Naiomy Torres
Colorado escaramuza queen Carolina Herrera

During the coronation, the new queen, whom is part of Torres' team, Carolina Herrera, wore a traditional traje charro with metal buttons and handmade embroidery, and instead of getting the traditional crown as any beauty queen could expect, she wore her charra hat and was given a scepter.

Credit: Naiomy Torres
Colorado escaramuza queen Carolina Herrera holding a scepter.

After the coronation, Herrera changed into a "china poblana dress," a traditional dress worn in Mexico with beautiful embroidered sparkling sequins and danced the Jarabe Tapatio dance, known as the Mexican hat dance.

More than 10 states have charrería teams and escaramuza teams. Colorado has 17 charrería teams and 10 escaramuza teams. Each charrería team has a president and one delegate represents all the escaramuza teams. There is one PUA, or President of the Association, and one queen that represents the whole state. 

Any girl who wishes to become an escaramuza has to be fully committed.

"It's not a sport for everyone," Torres said. There are numerous hours of practice and sacrifices, and it is not inexpensive. 

The traditional 'traje charro,' or the charro suit for ladies, starts at $500 on the lower end and along with maintaining a horse, paying the trainers and the cost to travel for competitions it could discourage those that aren't passionate about the sport.

Torres says the girls also commit to participating in fundraisers to pay for competitions in other states and out of the country. 

"All of those long hours of practice and sacrifices are worth it in the end," she said.

Girls as young as three years old can become escaramuzas. Escaramuzitas Adelitas de Colorado, a local school run by Brenda Aguilera, a close friend of Torres, teaches the basics. The girls ride a stick horse while learning about to the sport, the choreography and it teaches them the terminology of the ring formations.

Credit: Brenda Aguilera
Escaramuzitas Adelitas de Colorado

"... the most beautiful thing about charrería is that it opens doors for you, you meet people that you never imagined you were going to meet, friends who you now see as family, a space to be who you are and enjoy what you like. For me it is passion, it is discipline, it is having responsibility with your horses, with your team. For me, apart from all that, it is also part of your identity. "

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