Published on: Wed, Feb 19, 2014
Sadly Thin Line is over but it did not end without leaving a strong impression. The festival continually exposed us to worlds we otherwise would never have thought of seeking. I was especially excited to see a film that told the story of my heritage through a woman’s equestrian team listed in the schedule. I was even more delighted to see that our friends at North Texas State Fair and Rodeo sponsored Escaramuza: Riding from the Heart which showed this past Sunday afternoon.
If you are not familiar with charreadas , they are definitely not a Mexican rodeo. Charreadas originated as ranch work competitions prior to the Mexican Revolution and have evolved into a traditional equestrian sport. Participants are clad with traditional charro dress and compete in various events such as reining, heeling, bull riding, team roping and much more. Roughly 20 years ago a new event, Escaramuza, was added and it is the sole area where women compete.
The Hispanic community would unwittingly have kept charreadas and the women’s competition a secret jewel had there not been a chance encounter between documentary filmmakers Robin Rosenthal and Bill Yahraus and two Mexican brothers that handled colts. What Rosenthal and Yahraus discovered was a story of hard working women maintaining a tradition known and understood by few.
The documentary followed a team of Mexican American women in California named Las Azaleas who, after countless hours on horseback, choreograph a horse ballet with rhythm, movement, music and speed. It is an art form and at the same time a national sport in Mexico which has followed families to the United States. Every woman in the documentary is a competitor but also a daughter, mother, or high school and college student. We watch as they train their horses to run through different patterns all while riding side saddle in traditional dresses at top speeds. They face every obstacle women athletes face from raising families to sport injuries. These women are also the designers of their traditional attire and sew their own costumes.
I fell in love with these athletes! I felt every joy and heartbreak of their journey as they fought their way to compete in the annual national competition held in Mexico. Surprisingly, instead of feeling territorial with the national sport, the Mexican judges and audience recognized the efforts of the American team and their diligence to maintain the tradition in the states.
I knew the filmmakers would be in attendance and was looking forward to meeting them but I was surprised to see special guests, Las Coronelas, in the audience. This group is the Fort Worth chapter of Escaramuzas and has faced very similar challenges that Las Azaleas faced in the documentary. With State, Regional and National titles, these horse champions of Texas even had a cameo in the film. It was a true treat for the audience to meet and visit with them. Thanks to the Thin Line and Escaramuza: Riding from the Heart these young ladies gained a new audience and following.
I watched several wonderful documentaries but it’s not a surprise that this was my favorite film of the entire festival. Yes it was intimate for me because of my heritage but also because Denton County is home to Horse Country, an area unparalleled to any other in the nation. It was fascinating to watch the daredevil moves the women performed and I was proud to see that traditions stay strong. ¡Viva la Escaramuza!