Rodeo, charro style in Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Columnist David Zirnhelt shares his experiences of a Friday night out in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

This is the last of the Mexico series of my articles.

Our sometimes guide in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, “Natcho,” as his friends call him, is a horseman.

He belongs to a network of charros who work and play together with their horses and livestock, the same way we used to do the local rodeos/stampedes here in days gone by.

Natcho offered to take me to a rodeo on a Friday night, after the working day was over.

As it happens, someone, his nephew, was sponsoring the event involved.

I knew that there would be bull roping. That was it.

My Spanish is mostly non-existent.

As we sat under the tree, shade being absolutely necessary, at the charro grounds, we were sipping a beer.

Then the charros started arriving, each one politely introducing himself, after they boisterously greeted my friend and guide.

He was one of them, and I was his amigo so I was welcomed too.

Deep fried pork, a whole pig at a time, cut up, deep-fried in its own fat in a washtub, and finished in a hot sauce, was the meal provided by the sponsor.

Of course it was served with the ever-present tortillas and beer.

A quick meal, then saddling up and getting the kinks out of the 80-foot-long lariats was followed by another drink, maybe a Scotch whiskey, lime juice, and some sweetener.

A yearling bull would be turned out into the arena with 25 cowboys each eager to be the first to rope it.

It was a little like the wild cow milking event you see here.

Then a teammate would rope the back feet.

Once the bull was on the ground the guys on foot would put a rope around the bull’s withers and then call for a young brave “wannabe” charro to come out of the crowd to get on the bull as he got up, one rope still around the neck.

These days it is hard to get young people to do this, a phenomenon happening in rodeo country in America all over.

These charros were really trying to get the next generation interested in the ranching.

When bored or when the brass band music inspired them, some of the charros would have their horses dance and prance to the music.

You wouldn’t find a cowboy here dancing with the horse, but it is part of the showing off of the skill of horseman and horse.

The charros would ride up to the bar of their choice at the edge of the arena and have another drink.

As evening progressed some would take a girlfriend, a niece or nephew, sometimes a young child for a ride even with the bull and all the charros in the arena.

Then the Mezcal came out and the whole show got western.

The Mezcal producers from the hills around had their gallon jugs of the finest for sale by the pop bottle full.

I did sample it too.

Then for the third time my partner, Susan, phoned Natcho’s cell phone and he decided he had better take me home.

Susan’s concern was how I would get into the locked hotel compound after hours. She had the keys.

Moral of the story, if you really want to experience a local rodeo to the end insist the one with the keys come with you.