Escaramuza teams in Chicago: a brief history


Mexico’s oldest sport is charrería. “It’s considered the national sport – everyone thinks it’s soccer but it’s charrería,” said Vereniz Llamas. The men who practice the equestrian sport are known as charros but perhaps more impressive are the women, who are called escaramuzas. It literally translates to skirmish in English. Llamas, , lives in Beecher, Illinois and has been riding for years. “An escaramuza is a Mexican cowgirl that works in a synchronized team with eight other girls on side saddle doing dangerous crosses, fast turns and it’s almost a dance on horses,” said Llamas.

The tradition of Charrería, which dates back to the s, lives on in the south suburbs of Chicago. Illinois now has Charro teams and nine Escaramuza teams who compete at a state level with the hopes of going on to compete at what’s known as the annual Congreso in Mexico. Illinois is one of states that continue the tradition and can officially compete in Mexico, according to the Federación Mexicana de Charrería. RELATED: Chicago’s Little Village group Xochitl-Quetzal Aztec Dance carries on more than -year tradition

“A lot of people from Chicago when we tell them what we are.

The Coronelas de Illinois are a competitive escaramuza team that practices in Manhattan at Ranchos Los Gonzalez. Founded in , the Coronelas are the second oldest escaramuza team in Illinois and are considered one of the stronger teams in the state. The Coronelas became the newest state champions on Aug. at this year’s state competition hosted by Rancho El Consuelo in Beecher. The team is now headed to compete at the Congreso in Zacatecas, Mexico.

In October, Alexa Curiel, , of Joliet spoke about her experience as a member of the Coronelas. She said, “We have a very strong leader, Itzel. As an escaramuza in Illinois, she is one of everyone’s idols because she’s competed in Mexico so many times. she’s such a phenomenal rider.” Itzel Castañeda, , is the captain of the Coronelas. She has been riding since she was five years old.

“We have eight different ideas, eight different personalities, and eight different schedules,” said Castañeda. The judges fly in from Mexico and are very meticulous, making sure each detail is in place before they even ride into the arena. This includes attire, horses, saddles, and even hair. “Your hair has to be in a slick-back ponytail, and be careful not to have fly-aways,” explains Curiel. “You’re also not supposed to have unnatural hair colors like blue or green. That’s part of the rule book.” But most importantly, they look at the team as a whole for their precision and accuracy.

If you’re doing a turn, what they’re going to look for is if one girl’s off. If she’s too open, it’s all about precision and coordination,” said Castañeda. Unlike charros, escaramuzas ride side saddle wearing traditional Mexican dresses. Castañeda said she considers herself an athlete. “Not any person can just get on a side saddle and do it correctly. It involves a lot of balance.”” Riding side saddle is what differentiates an escaramuza from a charro. The woman’s saddle is called the albarda – the men’s is called the silla.


To compete at the highest levels of charreada, it takes more than just individual skill. It takes a team that is in sync with one another, both in terms of their riding and their presentation. This is why the judges pay so much attention to detail, to make sure that each team is up to the challenge. With so many different elements to consider, it’s no wonder that preparation for a charreada can be so intense. But for those who love the sport, it’s all worth it in the end.


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