Today was all about charros, Mexican cowboys. We saw over 2000 cuacos, or horses, and some of the most beautiful charrería or charro fashion ever, in “the world’s largest cantina,” the Jerez Spring Festival.
Jerez was about a 45-minute drive from Zacatecas. We arrived about 10 am, which was really lucky, as we were able to get a perfect parking spot and walk around the streets prior to the crowds arriving. We stopped in a tailor shop, as well as a saddlery shop. People in Jerez were so very kind and friendly. The tailor was working on last-minute adjustments to charro pants for a few guys, and the saddlery was doing the same—making new holes in belts and adjusting saddlery so everyone could celebrate the day appropriately. It seemed obvious this was one of the most important days of the year. The sombrero sellers were also doing big business in the morning. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view as a slideshow.
The streets of Jerez are gorgeous, particularly for a small town. There is a beautiful cathedral, some gothic buildings, and many more typical Mexican small town streets as well. Everywhere we looked the town was dressed up for the Feria de Primavera. They especially seem to love huge inflatable beer cans and bottles here 🙂 As we walked around the streets began to fill with people, ready for a party.
As we were walking around, we met quite a few people and realized that charros from all over Mexico come to Jerez for the Spring Festival. It is a major big deal. Two of our new friends hosted us to breakfast (gracias!).
The main event of the day is the cabalgata, which in this case is basically cruising around the streets of the town on a horse in full charro regalia, flirting with the spectators. Note that there were a few lady riders, and they rode sidesaddle. Some people rode as couples. And some rode while texting.
The day starts out about 1:00 pm with the lighting of various Judases—traitors—hung around town. These Judases are like piñatas with firecrackers attached. They seem mostly to be sponsored by local businesses, particularly cantinas. This year the Judases included an Osama bin Laden, a Moamar Khadafi, and two (2!) Barak Obamas!
We were able to see most of the Judases before the crowds showed up. We knew they would light them later. What we didn’t realize was that the guys on the horses would light the Judases. Then, they’d rope them (lasso them), drag them down, and gallop through town dragging the Judas as it was burning and popping. You definitely do not want to be standing in the street as the horses gallop buy dragging a flipping, flopping, burning and popping Judas! It was quite the sight!
The day started out very family-friendly. There were lots of kids and families. Most of the kids were just so darned cute!
As the day went on, however, the cabalgata riders started drinking beer, then tequila, and then whiskey. We definitely started to understand the “biggest cantina in the world” slogan. The afternoon from about 2-5 became one big street party. It was terrific.
There were bands everywhere: norteñas, bandas, tamborazos, and even a few mariachi. They played while marching in the cabalgata, they played on stages and bandstands, they played behind the bleachers where the spectators were watching the cabalgata and partying, they played UNDER the bleachers as well. Bottom line seemed to be that you had to be able to play in the midst of a crowd of people.
We enjoyed ourselves until about 3 o’clock, when the crowds really became overwhelming for us.
One of the coolest things I realized today was how beautiful the charro hats are, and what a variety they are. I am absolutely in love with the wicker variety, and want to check on prices, which I imagine are high. If not, I would love to have one—beautiful artisan work.
After driving back to the hotel, resting, attending a beautiful but very lengthy Easter Resurrection mass this Sábado de Gloria, we made Danny a very happy boy. He was able to eat meat for the first time in 40 days ☺