Rodeo is an equestrian sport from Chile, declared the «national sport» in 1962,[n 1] sharing the same status as hopscotch. The event is held inside a circular enclosure called a rodeo ring and is made up of two disciplines: cow runs and the movement of the reins, this being the most popular, where the objective is to horse collar - using two “huasos” (skilled horse riders) mounted on Chilean horses - a herd using a steer of thatch. The second discipline consists of passing eight equestrian tests.
The game’s origins go back to Imperial Spain's colonial era (1598-1810), as part of traditional Chilean peasant festivals. The official organization in charge of the Chilean rodeo is The National Sports Federation of the Chilean Rodeo, while the labor organization is run by The National Federation of Chilean “Huasos” of Rodeos and Clubs, founded in 1961 and 1986 respectively. The National Championship is held annually in April in “La Monumental Medialuna de Rancagua,” the main tournament and stadium, with representation from different places throughout the country.
Rodeo is a traditional sport in Chile. It was declared the national sport in 1962. It has since thrived, especially in the more rural areas of the country. Chilean rodeo is different from the rodeo found in North America. In Chilean rodeo, a team (called a collera) consisting of two riders (called Huasos) and two horses ride laps around an arena trying to stop a calf, pinning it against large cushions. Points are earned for every time the steer is properly driven around the corral, with deductions for faults. Rodeos are conducted in a crescent-shaped corral called a medialuna.
The sport, in its modern form, is strictly regulated. Chilean Horses are used exclusively and riders are required to wear traditional huaso garb. Rancagua hosts the annual Campeonato Nacional de Rodeo, the nationwide rodeo championship. The greatest rider in the sport's history is considered Ramón Cardemil, who obtained the national title seven times; the last champions were Juan Carlos Loaiza and Eduardo Tamayo Órdenes. Riders practice in the countryside throughout Chile, but is most popular in the central zone. Even so, huasos have been known to travel hundreds of miles to compete in competitions.
Currently, rodeo is one of the most practiced sports in Chile, some sources argue only second to soccer. The Chilean Rodeo developed in rural areas all over the country, most prominently in the central area, where there is a rural demographic. However, the location of the most notable sites of play, called “medialunas,” are constructed in big cities in Chile. This shift is because of the expansion of the rodeo in the middle of the twentieth century. :)
The game consists of a horse collar, composed of two “huasos” and two horses, who must stop a young bull within three chances to receive different scores. The maximum score is flank save which earns four points, then the free paddle save which is worth three points, and finally the paddle save which earns 2 points. You can also be deducted points when the riders cut across or pass the ring.
Currently, the sport is governed by strict regulation that, among other rules, says only registered Chilean horses can compete, ridden by “huaso” in full uniform. The official season begins in September and lasts until April, with around 320 rodeos throughout Chile. The season ends with the National Championship of the Chilean Rodeo, that happens each year in the rodeo ringMedialuna Monumental de Rancagua and is attended by the best riders and horses that qualified during the season.
In 1949 the first National Rodeo Championship was played in Rancagua and the first champions were the riders Ernesto Santos and José Gutiérrez Salgado. The maximum exponent in this championship is the rider Juan Carlos Loaiza who has won nine national titles, followed by Ramon Cardemil and Eduardo Tamayo, with seven championships each.
The birth of the Chilean Rodeo dates back to the twentieth century during the rule of Governor García Hurtado de Mendoza, a cavalry officer trained in the play and administration of skill games. He was, also, a large admirer of Moorish equestrian art. In those years the cattle in Chile were not well identified and it was very common for them to get lost. To prevent this, Governor Hurtado ordered that every 24th and 25 July, at the feast of the Apostle Santiago, the patron saint of the city, cattle be gathered in what is now known as the Plaza de Armas de Santiago to be sold and selected. In 1557, this rodeo became mandatory, but the date changed to October 7, San Marcos Day. The goal remained the same, but the work of transferring cattle to different corrals already had to be carried out by riders on extraordinarily well-trained horses.
At the end of the twentieth century the rodeo began to occur regularly. It was practiced on a rectangular track with a length of 75 meters. The riders would remove the cattle from the corrals and in the center of the track would demonstrate their abilities to separate and direct the herd without the help of other riders. All of this action was regimented and the most skillful riders were honored.
In 1860 the medialuna was imposed, similar to the one that is run today, with a ring and two thatches, which is the place where the riders need to stop the cattle. In those days, thirty or more head of cattle were locked up in the ring so that each couple would remove the cattle from their brand with no help other than their skill, a difference from today, when the cattle are in a bullpen and leave the court randomly. The medialuna has a radius of 20 to 25 meters in length. Previously rodeos were played on a rectangular court that made it difficult to drive the cattle. In the days of Governor Garcia Hurtado de Mendoza, the most experienced riders in training or in, what is now called the rein movement, were rewarded. During the government of General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, in 1927, he signed the law governing “cow bullfights,” leaving the Chilean rodeo under the responsibility of the General Directorate of Equine Development and Remonta of the Chilean Army.
The birth of Chilean rodeo is placed in the 16th century during the rule of Governor García Hurtado de Mendoza. At the time, the cattle in Chile were not well identified and it was not uncommon for the animals to get lost. To help prevent the loss, Governor Hurtado proclaimed that, in Santiago, every 24 and 25 July, the commemoration of Saint Jacob - patron saint of the city -, the cattle would be gathered in the Plaza de Armas de Santiago to be branded and selected. In later years, this round-up became mandatory but, the date of the event changed to October 7, the day of Saint Mark. Though the purpose of the gathering remained the same, the riders had become extremely well trained with the constant work of transferring cattle to the various corrals.
Towards the end of the 17th century, the rodeo begins to get regulated and is practiced in a rectangular track 75 meters long. The riders would bring out the cattle from the corrals and on the main track, display their abilities to separate a single calf and guide it without the help of other riders. All this activity was regulated and the most talented riders would receive honors and awards.
In the year 1860, the medialuna type track becomes the dominant track form with one apiñadero and two quinchas, where the riders have to stop the cattle. The medialuna, at this time, has a radius of 20 to 25 meters.
Standardization and regulation
Rodeo became, by law, a national sport on January 10, 1962 by decree Nº269 of the National Council of Sports and the Chilean Olympic Committee. Beginning on May 22, 1961, the sport is regulated by the Federation of Chilean Rodeo. In 1986, the National Federation of Rodeos and Huaso Clubs of Chile (Federación Nacional de Rodeos y Clubes de Huasos de Chile) is founded to regulate, to a certain degree, the "labor rodeos" (rodeo tournaments not recognized by the Olympic Committee).
In 1949, the first National Rodeo Championship occurs in the city of Rancagua and the very first champion was the team composed of Ernesto Santos and José Gutiérrez. The riders with the most victories in the history of the championship are Ramón Cardemil and Juan Carlos Loaiza, each having won the national title seven times. The most recent champions of the 2014-2015 season were Luis Ignacio Urrutia y Juan Ignacio Meza.
Although the Chilean rodeo was declared a national sport, it finds itself in a precarious position in terms of finances, political support and promotion. Part of the reason for this is that the federation does not receive any of the revenue of Instituto Nacional de Deportes de Chile (Chiledeportes) like the rest of sports federations in Chile. This is because only sports that represent Chile overseas receive funds. The Chilean Rodeo Federation has been critical of the government for the lack of funds towards the sport, arguing that because in many parts of the country, due to the distance from population centers, sporting events do not arrive, the local population turn to the rodeo as their primary pass time throughout the Chilean rural territory. Nevertheless, thanks to the commitment and support of its many fans, the rodeo has maintained its popularity, especially in the rural areas, and its status as the second most popular sport in Chile.
Animal rights organizations object to Chilean Rodeo and refuse to call it "sport". The arguments against this activity are related to the treatment the animals receive: the calf is driven near a wall and suddenly is hit by the horse's chest (a charge) in order to stop him. This occurs several times, although the calf is rarely injured or unwilling to stand up. There are constant inspections of the calf during the event to ensure that it is fit to continue.
In 2010, a group of activists entered a medialuna in the middle of a rodeo to protest, and they were violently repressed by the huasos taking part in the event. A 17-year-old girl was lassoed, beaten and dragged out of the medialuna.
Since then, other organizations are seeking a ban on Chilean rodeo. This is similar to the 2010 ban on Spanish bullfighting in Catalonia, Spain.
The rodeo is not only a sporting event but also a party where friends and family gather. Normally, it is held on the weekend and includes different activities such as craft fairs, horse shows, Chilean Creole games, and Chilean-style races, among others.
The “ramanda,” or tavern, is the main place where the party occurs. Generally, here, a musical group plays the cueca, a Chilean genre of music, while people dance. Additionally, you can taste typical Chilean foods such as casserole, asado, corn cakes, humitas, empanadas, etc. As for drinking, the most popular options are pisco, chicha, punch, and chilean wine. Although rodeos are held throughout the year, they most commonly take place during the National Holidays because, over the years, they have become a symbol of Chile.
In every rodeo a queen is chosen. On Saturday, the candidates are nominated and on Sunday the winner is chosen. By tradition, the chosen individual must dance the cueca with the winners and take a ride on the back of their horse.
Women's Rodeo Movement
For many years the rodeo was exclusively for men. Women participated in the rodeos through various administrative roles, but never entered any of the events. This dynamic only began to change in the late 1990s when women became able to participate in the Chilean Equestrian Trials (PECH). Later, women continued to protest and demand that they be more included in the main rodeo events; subsequently, creating distinct organizations to fight for these rights.
This is how, in 2003, the Chilean Rodeo Federation allowed female participation in main events. During the 2005 National Rodeo Championship, the first female national rodeo was held. The event was won by the rider, Romané Soto, with 57 points. She has continued to participate in rodeos, but the overall women's performance has not been the best; however, for the 2009 National Rodeo Championships Soto managed to qualify with one horse for the final (that of Romané Soto with “Aviador”). The pair went on to win the championship with only 44 points.
Although the women’s riding movement was growing quickly, initially, the Chilean Rodeo Federation decided against abolishing article 181 that stated that bull riding can only be a men’s competition. However, on October 12, 2009, the first promotional women’s rodeo was held at the Santa Filomena de Colina arena. More than three thousand spectators and media representatives attended to cheer on and broadcast the thirty women competitors. On Chile’s 200th anniversary, Article 181 was abolished by President Sebastián Piñera and women were allowed to compete in federated rodeos under the same conditions as men. At the 2012 National Rodeo Championship, Michelle Recart became the first woman to qualify for the Champions Series of a National Rodeo.
During the 1990’s the rodeo began to spread to Argentina, especially within the Mendoza province. In 1993 the first rodeo arena was built in Argentina, in the town Tunuyán. Following this increased presence of the rodeo in Chile’s neighboring country, Argentinian riders were invited to participate in Chilean Rodeo National Championship. In January 2018, an agreement was signed between the Chilean Rodeo Federation and the Cuyo Rodeo Association (Argentinian Rider’s Association), where the Argentinian Cuyo horseman and the Chilean riders could participate in both Chilean and Argentinian sponsored rodeos. Recently, a significant number of arenas have been constructed in Argentina and the sport is gaining more supporters daily. In Argentina the rodeo is known as “rodeo cuyano” and it is unique from the Chilean rodeo because the riders where traditional “gaucho” clothing, which is a typical and historical style of clothing born in the Argentinian rural areas. In Uruguay, the interest in the Rodeos has also grown.
In 2005 the first International Rodeo Championship was held in Argentina and was won by Chilean riders Luis Eduardo Cortés and José Urrutia. That same year, the rider Alfonso Navarro obtained the title of champion in the traditional Gold Brake event which is held in Brazil. The event was and still is attended by representatives of different countries of the Southern Cone and Brazil. The participants compete in different events on Creole horses.
On May 1, 2009, according to the framework of the Expo FICCC, the most important Criollo horse exhibition in the history of Latin America took place. The rodeo was held in Esteio, Porto Alegre, Brazil. For the event, a new rodeo arena was built in Esteio, and an excited and large crowd was in attendance. The decided champions were José Astabiriaga and Alfredo Moreno, who were universally applauded by their Brazilian, Argentine, Uruguayan and Paraguayan competitors.
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