Sometimes when you see movement at the side of the street you just have to turn off and see what is happening. That is how we came to this “Fiesta Criolla”. Just make sure you always have your camera at hand…!
A field full of trucks, people sitting around tables as if they were camping. Little boys running in between the crowd, dressed as mini-men, showing off on their horses as if they are real rodeo riders. Not really “as if”, they are so good that it looks as if they were born on a horse. All the men dressed up in their best gaucho outfit. Including the silver (usually family-) knife stuck on their back in a belt. Hats, boots or botas de potra.
You get it. It was defenitely a men’s day. The women all looked very plain, as if they knew that on a day like this the men had to shine and they didn’t want to divert attention. And the men shone! It took me a while before I dared to go to these great looking men asking of I could take their picture, but when I got the hang of it my husband had to pull me away to go home. I just couldn’t decide which man looked the best.
In the center there is a big field where 3 horses at a time are prepared for jineteada. Jineteada is this game where a gaucho (can be compared to a US “cowboy”) has to sit on a wild horse as long as 14 seconds. After that 2 other men help him off the horse while riding. Somtimes they fall off, but mostly they don’t. It is extremely spectacular.
The horses are quite wild. Four to five men -one of them sitting on a big horse- are needed to prepare the horse for the ride. They treat him as if he is made of glass. They blindfold him to calm him down. It is not until the gaucho is ready to go that they uncover his eyes. And then it starts. In between the rides an old gaucho sings gaucho songs in a melancholy voice with lyrics that are improvised at the moment and are related to the gaucho that had just finished riding. Hours later I still heard his voice singing.
It is a tipical Argentine folklore game, although it also exists in Paraguay and Uruguay and in some parts of Chili. The riders are dressed acording to tradition. The ‘botas de potro’ probaby being the most striking. They actually look more like socks then like riding boots. They are made of the leather of the under leg of a horse (potro). Many of them wear the old silver belts and knives. It is a not just a sportsgame, it is a cultural outing, where the young and the old enjoy the revival of the old traditions. A family day, with the traditional asado. Although, a revival? I suppose it has always been like this…