How young girls and women in SoCal are carrying on the Mexican tradition of charrería

Anabel Munoz Image
Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Girls and women in SoCal carry on Mexican tradition of charrería
The Mexican sport of charrería has long found a home in Mexican American communities - one SoCal group is keeping its spirit alive.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Mexican sport of charrería has long found a home in Mexican American communities. A woman in the sport rides sidesaddle and is known as an escaramuza, the Spanish-language word for skirmish.

"It's like synchronized swimming, but it's in a round arena," said Idoya Bonilla, who shares a love for the sport with her daughter.

"Sometimes, they're recorded from above, and you see these beautiful patterns being created," added Bonilla.

"It's just something that is like dear to my heart," said Maribel Gutierrez, who founded Las Azaleas. "I'm 49 years old, I started riding, probably at five, six."

Gutierrez is also a co-instructor of the junior team, but the escaramuzas in the youngest group start riding as early as 5 years old.

They perform and compete in the U.S. and Mexico. This past weekend, they helped raise funds for cancer research at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena.

They must execute the drills with precision because they can be dangerous. "You are just so happy that you and these girls get to connect on such a personal level; that you're able to do these very scary, very close call moments," said Nadia Gutierrez who is on the junior team.

They wear elaborate dresses inspired by the adelitas, the women who fought in the Mexican Revolution, and they look graceful while executing challenging drills. Still, Gutierrez stresses, there's more to it. "They can move the trucks, trailers, they can move tractors, I mean, just things that come along with it. It's not just getting on the horse and looking beautiful," she said.

For many, this practice has been passed down for generations. "I feel like as soon as I started riding, I just feel more connected with my mom because it's something that we both love to do. And it just made our relationship a lot stronger," said Clarice Gutierrez, Maribel Gutierrez's daughter.

"We're really lucky to be here in California where there's more of this but I love that it's still around and I hope it continues on to pass down in generations," said Bonilla.