Spotlight: Portrait of the Escaramuza Cowgirl

By David Schonauer   Monday August 6, 2018

Eight years ago, Dane Strom moved to Mexico.

He’d quit his job as an editor with the Denver Post and headed south with a guitar, settling in the town of Ajijic in Jalisco state, on the north shore of the country's largest lake, Lake Chapala.

“All of my photography is now dedicated to Mexico, and the majority of it to this one town — its culture, traditions, and annual fiestas,” says Strom, adding, “In Mexico's small towns, it's still common to see horses and cowboys trot by on the cobblestone streets on a daily basis. Though it's not a common occupation, and one shouldn't think of all or even most Mexicans as cowboys and cowgirls who wear sombreros and ponchos, it's still a deeply connected part of the country's traditions and past.”

Among his subjects is the charrería, the Mexican competitive sport of horsemanship, which is recognized on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. “Charrería has its roots in the Spain of 500 years ago but was developed by ranch workers on haciendas here in Mexico in the centuries since. Some families have been involved in the sport for generations,” notes Strom.

In 1989, the women's escaramuza competition became an official part of the charrería. “The escaramuzas and charros often participate in the holiday parades and religious processions through Ajijic. The escaramuzas wear matching flowing dresses, often in bright, saturated colors. With the shape of the sombreros and all the pageantry, photographically speaking it's a no-brainer,” says Strom, whose portrait of one escaramuza rider shot during the Mexican Independence Day parade (at top), was named a winner of the Latin American Fotografía 6  competition.

“As I've been here so long, I've been able to see the same religious processions and holidays celebrated over and over again. This makes it a bit easier to set up a shot in front of a certain wall, which I know will be illuminated in the right way depending on the time of the year,” says Strom, who shot the portrait with a Nikon D7100 and a 70-300mm lens set at 70mm.

Here is a sample of Strom’s photographs of escaramuzas and charros.

Along with his photography, Strom works as a web developer and designer. “I’ve also been doing search-engine optimization and internet marketing over the past 10 years, so I know the value of having a well-promoted photography profile online,” he says. “Last year I began to do some serious content marketing on my website, creating dozens of photo essays about Mexico. This has brought my traffic up from dismal numbers to ten times what it was before.”

Go here to view Strom's website.


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Dispatches from Latin America