Spotlight on Baja Vaqueros

This year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering will shine the spotlight on the vaqueros of Baja California, folks who still adhere to the ranching and horsemanship ways used for hundreds of years on the rugged Mexican peninsula.

Poster for this year's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada

Poster for this year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada

They use horses and mules for their work with cattle and goats. Mules are preferred by many because they tend to be tougher and can sustain themselves better on the Baja’s diverse and sometimes paltry forage. It’s fitting that this year’s poster, by Mexican artist Carlos César Díaz Castro, is of a vaquero and his mule.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Poetry Gathering, check out the Western Folklife Center’s event, which annually draws thousands to Elko, Nevada.

You can read more about it here.

Interested in the Baja cowboys? They’ve adapted to beautiful but treacherous environment in countless ways. Check out, for instance, the leg protection (to keep the cactus at bay). It comes mostly in the form of armas, leather skirting attached directly to the saddle. Don Jose y la Pancha, the man in the poster at right, has them. So does the vaquero below.

There’s an excellent documentary to watch: Carazon Vaquero: The Heart of the Cowboy. You can purchase it or watch excerpts on YouTube.

Cowboy wearing armas

Cowboy wearing armas

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