On one of my first weeks teaching at the Universidad de Guadalajara, México in September 2012, I was walking back home towards La Minerva after hopping off of the bus that took teachers from the city to the agricultural college at the outskirts of the city. La Minerva is a huge roundabout that is a prominent landmark for folks living in Guadalajara. I had walked through La Minerva many times previously, but on this day there were huge crowds of people and no cars were being allowed to drive through the roundabout. When I got closer, I saw that the road had been covered in sand and there were over 100 horses and riders with these incredible, vibrantly colored dresses with mariachi playing at the center. I asked the people next to me what was going on and it turned out it was the largest gathering of Escaramuzas for the Guinness World Records! I later learned that Escaramuzas are women who ride side-saddle in traditional Mexican outfits and perform choreographed synchronized maneuvers to music.
I rode horses growing up and have always been drawn to them and despite having many Mexican friends in the US and being in the horse world, I had never heard of an Escaramuza before this point. I know first-hand how difficult it is to choreograph routines on horseback, so to have this many riders mounted side-saddle, and on top of that, in the middle of one of the largest cities in México, it was breathtaking to say the least. It was the perfect moment to highlight for me the prevalence of traditional customs continuing to be performed to this day, even in this large modern city. The next day, I was able to speak to my students about it as a topic during our conversation club. They shared with me their connection to traditional Mexican customs, and particularly the connection Guadalajara has to Mariachi and Escaramuzas. I learned new vocabulary from my students and they practiced talking about horses (which was actually relevant to their studies as they were in the agricultural school, CUCBA). I was able to share my love of horses and background growing up riding and showing competitively with my students, and they taught me about some of their family that trained as Escaramuzas. I found out that some of them were even at La Minerva witnessing the Guinness World Record being broken, as well. This was one of the most surprising and exciting experiences I had in México and I loved being able to share that with my students.
Jane Lombardi – Fulbright to Mexico 2012