Galloping sidesaddle, narrowly crossing a circular arena known as a lienzo charro, women in the Pacific Northwest competed in Washington’s first state escaramuza championship last weekend in Enumclaw.
Escaramuza — a synchronized team equestrian competition choreographed to music — is the only female event in charrería, Mexico’s national sport. According to the Texas State Historical Association, charrería is the precursor of the North American rodeo and was born from the skills of charros, or cowboys, working on haciendas in Mexico starting in the 16th century.
After months of practice, Jessica Paola Pimienta, of Snohomish, and her team Escaramuza Erandi earned top honors. Their team will be the first in Washington state history to compete in Federación Mexicana de Charrería’s national competition in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
“I’ve been competing in state since it started,” said Pimienta, who has participated in the sport for the last 10 years. “I always dreamed of this happening and for girls to compete on a team for nationals.”
Although charrería has been popular for generations throughout Mexico and United States, the sport has only gained popularity in Washington state during the last 15 years, said Pimienta. On the West Coast, there are about 3,200 registered charros, where men compete in nine events, and about 800 registered escaramuzas, where teams of eight women compete in fast-paced, synchronized routines on horseback.
“You are working in harmony with the other seven girls,” she said. “You get such an adrenaline rush.”
Pimienta felt elated when there were three fully formed escaramuza teams in the state, which were needed to hold Washington state’s first championship.
“It’s taken us 12 years to do it,” she said.
Pimienta will also be officially crowned as U.S. ambassador for U.S. coordination of charrería next week in Texas, after serving three years as the first female Washington state ambassador.
“It’s crazy to see how hard she worked inside our arenas, our lienzos, and outside,” says Sandra Pimienta, her older sister. “She works with the Consulado de México in Seattle, she’s gone to teach classes in schools. I’ve seen how much she worked to really put charrería out there and get people to understand what we do and our tradition.”
Pimienta said it’s important for her and many participants to foster a connection between Mexico and the United States.
“Keeping our cultural traditions alive, here, is creating an environment that feels like home,” she said.
Looking forward, Pimienta hopes to bring more opportunities for women in charrería.
“I hope that in the next four years we’re able to raise our voices as women in the sport,” said Pimienta.