Arte en la Charreria: Art from Mexico’s National Sport on Display

You may think the insane act of mounting a wild bull and trying to ride it into submission is a completely American act. It’s clear the participants think so: most rodeos include massive American flags, red white and blue riding outfits, stirring national anthems, and enough good ‘ol boys to invade Canada. But Americans aren’t the only ones who take their equestrian sports seriously. As a matter of fact, it could be argued that our southern neighbors take even more pride in their horse riding prowess. After all, La Charreria, the older Mexican equivalent of rodeo, is the national sport of Mexico. And now Indianapolis residents can take a look at the bevy of beautiful artwork produced by Charreria culture at a relatively new exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. The exhibit is called Arte en la Charreria, and it’s running from November 13, 2010 to January 16, 2011.

La Charreria actually originated across the Atlantic Ocean, with the Spanish. When the Spanish colonized Mexico, they set up haciendas (work systems similar to the feudal hierarchy in that peasants lived with and worked for the hacienda master) and large swaths of agriculture. Due to the arid climate of Mexico, a ranching culture was developed. And to herd cattle, the Spanish needed horses; hence, horses were first brought to Mexico, and La Charreria was born in the 16th century. Horse mastery became an important part of Mexican culture, and that tradition has only grown over the years. Today, there are over 900 equestrian organizations in Mexico and hundreds of small and large charreada (Charreria is the name of the sport, a charreada is what an individual event is called) events take place around the country each month.

Video documentary about the tradition of Charreria; Arte en la Charreria is an exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, running from November 13, 2010 to January 16, 2011


Since the opening day of Arte en la Charreria has passed (it was on November 13, 2010), you’ve already missed the active parts of Charreria culture. The Indianapolis museum played host to a mariachi band, a performance by Anderson Ballet Folklorico, and displays by local artists, but you can still see the meat of the exhibition. On display at the Eiteljorg Museum are a number of authentic pieces used in Charreria culture, from saddles to clothing. Different types of saddles are used depending on the formality of the charreada. These can range from unadorned leather (Work Saddle) to gilded masterworks (Grand Gala Saddle). Ropes are also at Arte en la Charreria; in Mexican Charreria culture, ropes have transcended their actual purposes and rope usage has become almost an art form.

Other aspects of Arte en la Charreria are also on display at this Indianapolis art event. An array of unique spurs and bits show off the elegant craft work of Charreria artisans. Though the spurs and bits have their practical uses, they are also designed to be very eye catching. Like American rodeo, clothing is an important part of Charreria culture. The right article of clothing must be worn for each event in the charreada; like the saddles, the design and details of clothing can be used to read the formality of an event. In downtown Indianapolis, you can see examples of a Gala Suit (used for formal occasions on horseback), the Etiquette Suit (worn at special ceremonies, not on horseback), the Adelita Dress (a female work outfit named for a folkloric hero of the Mexican Revolution), and, of course, plenty of sombreros, the iconic symbol of Mexican culture.

Arte en la Charreria at the Eiteljorg Museum is a great way to educate your Indianapolis children (and yourself) on the beautiful aspects of a culture not that far removed (geographically, at least) from our own. The national sport of Mexico, Charreria has been in practice for hundreds of years, and the pieces on display at this Indianapolis attraction showcase the centuries of tradition inherent in the sport. This Indianapolis exhibit runs from November 13, 2010 to January 16, 2011. Admission to the exhibit is included in the price of admission to the Eiteljorg Museum. Take a trip down the street and south of the border to take in the beautiful art work of Mexico at the Arte en la Charreria exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art!

Arte en la Charreria at the Eiteljorg Museum
November 13, 2010 – January 16, 2011
Admission: FREE with museum admission
Exhibition Homepage

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
500 W Washington St
Indianapolis, IN 46204

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