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Mexican Horsemen by Anja Bruehling

By David Schonauer   Monday July 17, 2017


The sport is a living history, notes Anja Bruehling:

“During the Charreada —  contemporary Mexican rodeo -– contending teams show off ranching skills,” she says. “Horses are agile, well-tempered and execute the commands of their charros, who wear traditional riding suite and wide-brimmed sombreros as part of the cultural iconography like bronco riding and roping. Everyone is passionate about their vocation and it is often handed down as a family tradition from generation to generation.”

Bruehling, who grew up in Germany with art and travel as part of her life, eventually became a documentary photographer. In 2000 her work brought her to the U.S., and today she is based in Chicago. But she she has never stopped traveling: She has worked in more than 70 countries, documenting diverse cultures and, as she puts it, “the human condition.”

“As a photographer I want to see and remember places, prosperity, beauty, love, people and the socio-economic problems they face,” she says.

In 2012 Bruehling made her first trip to Oaxaca, Mexico; there she came across the Charreada at Lienzo Charro de Tlalixtac de Cabrera, Oaxaca. She has returned again and again over the past several years to photograph weekend competitions and state championships. Work from her “Mexican Horsemen” series earned her a spot among the winners of the Latin American Fotografía 5  competition.

“The charreada itself consists of a number of scoring events staged in a particular order — including nine for the men,” Bruehling says. “Two or more teams, called asociaciones, compete against each other. Teams can compete to become state, regional, and national champions. The competitors are judged by both style and execution. Unlike rodeos, most charreadas do not award money to the winners. This is due to the fact that charreadas are considered an amateur sport, not professional. Under Mexican laws it would be illegal to receive a monetary reward for participating in a charreada. At times, there are such prizes as saddles or horse trailers.”

Bruehling’s black-and-white photographs capture the activities during these events and the enthusiasm of the people who participate. “Everyone is very much interested in keeping their culture alive and viable. They are very proud of who they are,” she says.

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Dispatches from Latin America