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Charrería recognized as cultural heritage

Equestrian practice recognized by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage

The traditional equestrian practice of livestock herding and the culture that sprung around it over the years has been designated intangible cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Charrería, as it is known, is horsemanship that developed out of animal husbandry practices used on the haciendas of old Mexico. Today, charro culture is now an intrinsic part of Mexican identity.

The official designation was delivered yesterday at an event hosted by the National Museum of Anthropology and attended by representatives of the federal government, the state of Jalisco, official cultural agencies and the Association of Charros of Mexico.

Charrería had been inscribed last fall on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

UNESCO Mexico administrative officer Alma Lara said it was important that people in Mexico and abroad understand that “what lies behind this art is the arduous work of survival in the fields and a long history of equestrian uses through which towns were protected and the economics of New Spain were advanced.”

Along with the equestrian nature of charrería came a trove of skilled artisans that manufactured “saddles, ropes and a baroque outfit that became the reflection of the identity of a group of people that were constructing their own identity.”

Today, continued Lara, charrería is “a dialogue between generations that weaves together farmers and urbanites that now emerges as world heritage given its transversality, as a living and symbiotic knowledge of nature, the [local] environment and society.”

The government of Jalisco, center of all things charro, said in a statement that “all the elements that make up the cultural mosaic of charrería are a tradition in themselves that enrich our culture. For this reason, we must follow up on the plan to preserve it and keep it alive.”

Jorge Salvador Gutiérrez Vázquez, undersecretary of cultural diversity, said the protection of charrería will soon be formalized with the creation of the Commission of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Charrería is now considered a sport and various categories are performed before an audience in local festivities in events known as charreadas, giving spectators an opportunity to see livestock herding skills.

Trained herders demonstrate their abilities on foot or horseback while dressed in traditional costume that features a wide-brimmed hat for a charro (horseman) and a colourful shawl for a charra (horsewoman).

Charrería is the eighth practice and expression of Mexican culture to be inscribed on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Others are Day of the Dead; traditions of the Otomí-Chichimeca people of Tolimán; the ritual ceremony of the Flyers of Papantla; traditional Mexican cuisine; the Parachicos in the traditional January feast of Chiapa de Corzo; the traditional song of the Purépecha, known as Pirekua; and Mariachi music.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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