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Visiting Chipilo for a Traditional Charreada

Charros attempt to corral an uncooperative bull from both ends.Chipilo is a small farming town located about seven miles south of the Puebla capital. It was established in 1882 by emigrants of the Veneto region in northern Italy, who relocated to central Mexico to escape poverty back home. The majority of these chipileños, as they’re known in these parts, hailed from Segusino in the Treviso province, which in 1982 became an official sister city.

Perhaps because of this close relationship — and the fact that Chipilo was relatively isolated from Puebla’s urban sprawl until the late 20th century — many locals speak a Venetian dialect. The biggest draws to outsiders are its meat and dairy products, particularly artisan cheeses, which are sought after for miles around. Nearly all of the attractions in town are located along a short stretch of road that veers off and then back onto the federal highway to Atlixco. (Turn right before the sister city sign.) Here visitors will find restaurants, shops and services, a church, a hotel, baseball and soccer fields, and the town’s lienzo charro, or rodeo ring.

Charreadas — or rodeos — have been a part of the Mexican culture since the 16th century, although being a charro used to be more of a job than a sport.

Our visit to Chipilo last Sunday took us directly to this ring, where the family of Alfonso “Poncho” García, was holding a gran charreada, or great rodeo, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death. The free event attracted hundreds of spectators and riders from Atlixco, Mexico City, and beyond, including an award-winning group of escaramuzas (women equestrians who ride side-saddle in precise, choreographed patterns) from Puebla. Our friend Elmar, who’s close to the Garcías, invited us to see the show — my first-ever rodeo — and we were honored to meet several longtime charreada fans and participants.

Charreadas have been a part of the Mexican culture since the 16th century, but being a charro was a more of a job than a sport up until the early 20th century. In 1921, the National Association of Charros formed to keep tradition alive, and in 1933 turned over country-wide organizational duties to the new National Federation of Charros. (Puebla’s affiliated state association of charros is among the oldest, dating to 1923.) A typical charreada comprises nine events for men and one for women, which are scored based on an individual’s technique. There is no time limit. Rodeo is considered an amateur sport, in that competitors usually vie for trophies, titles, and bragging rights instead of money.

The charreada in Chipilo was scheduled to start at noon, but in true Mexican fashion, it didn’t get under way until sometime thereafter. We didn’t mind. Our seats on the rickety metal bleachers were in the shade, and we bought a giant beer and snacks from various vendors. In some form or another, there was constant entertainment: Early on, one bull escaped the ring and disrupted the soccer game going on next door, as players and charros tried to get him off the field. Later, two others wouldn’t buck during the jinteo de toro, or bull riding, event; right out of the gate, they simply sat down. The announcer told jokes — some less politically correct than others — and tried to hurry the proceedings along by reminding everyone that he needed to, ahem, get to church by 6 p.m. And, at one point, the water truck managing the dust in the ring drove a little too close to the crowd.

The roping, reining, and riding skills on display, however, were well worth the occasional wait. The escaramuzas appeared to be in top form, executing intricate patterns in close proximity with speed and grace. Perhaps most impressive to me was the young charro who, on foot, repeatedly lassoed a mare that was being chased around the ring by three other competitors on horseback in the forefooting event. For his efforts, he received a standing ovation and many hats thrown into the ring.

A charro works his lasso in Chipilo, Puebla.The García family pays tribute to their son, Alfonso, on the 20th anniversary of his death.A charro rides a bucking bull in Chipilo.

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10 Responses to “Visiting Chipilo for a Traditional Charreada”

  1. Hey Rebecca,

    another beautiful article and insight-view on an Event near our beloved Puebla. As you know I have been personally conected to it and therefor appreciate it even more! Thanks for accepting my invitation. Glad to read you had a good time there.

    Un abrazote!

  2. […] Visiting Chipilo for a Traditional Charreada :: All About Puebla […]

  3. admin says:

    Thanks again, Elmar, for inviting us. We had a wonderful time!

    And thanks, Laura, for the pingback. :-)

  4. I will be visiting Puebla and Atlixco from June 10 thru June 19 (2011). I would very much like to attend a charreada and to meet some escaramuzas. Will there be anything scheduled on either of those weekends. I will be staying with friends in Atlixco and it does not sound too far away. Thanks, Celeste

  5. admin says:

    Hi Celeste. Elmar, who obviously knows some folks involved in the charreada scene, made a few inquiries, but he hasn’t been able to find any local events scheduled during the time that you plan to visit. That said, you could try contacting the Asociación de Charros de Puebla at (222) 282 50 70. I found their number here: http://www.decharros.com/charrosdepuebla/ Enjoy your trip! ~Rebecca

  6. Barb says:

    Hi mate, just after some help here, i do not speak Spanish and i am having trouble finding an exact address for the Congreso Nacional Charro in Puebla city October – November 2011, as i would like to book some accomodation within walking distance of the venue, as I will be staying for about a week to write articles and take photos for Rodeo In Australia Magazine, I would like to be close by.
    Are you or anyone able to help me out please, i have tried but can only find Spanish speaking info, and my Translation program is not working.
    Cheers Barbs.

  7. Barb says:

    PS i am sooooooo excited to be going to Puebla………..

  8. admin says:

    Hi Barb! The association’s letterhead (see DeCharros link above) lists its address as Carretera a Tehuacan #1032, Parque Industrial Puebla 2000, in the city of Puebla. So, I would look for hotels near “Parque Industrial” in Puebla, Pue. I believe there’s a Holiday Inn nearby, but you’ll want to confirm that it’s within walking distance before booking. (I suspect that the chain’s international reservations staff and/or the hotel’s front desk speak at least some English.) Hope this helps, and have a great trip! ~Rebecca

  9. Galeazzi says:

    When visiting Puebla, Chipilo is definitely a place to visit! I have a lot of my Italian family that still to this day live in Chipilo. Not only do my grandfather’s 8 brothers and sisters still live there, but much of my extended family as well.

    Entering Chipilo is literally like entering little Italy (“Little Italy” is actually posted on the town’s sign). It’s a completely different culture where everyone is from Italian descent and still to this day speak the Italian dialect from Veneto (which they call chipileño). The food, the atmosphere, and the culture make for a refreshing experience. Some of my family in Chilipo have and still participate in charreadas, which are a big part of their culture. I haven’t been back to visit my family in 6 years and have been missing it since the day I left.

    Here in the states, I have met people from Puebla, and every single person I’ve met knows of this little, simple Italian town. If you plan on visiting Puebla, make sure you make a stop at Chipilo. It’s only about 20 minutes away from the city of Puebla and is worth the visit… you’ll defintely be feeling like you’ve entered “little Italy”.

  10. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for your comments! I hope you’re able to visit again soon.