Escaramuza is an equestrienne display of choreographed patterns that was established as the tenth official event of charreada in 1992. The event consists of teams of six to twelve horsewomen who ride sidesaddle dressed in lacy, full skirts that suggest the aristocratic nineteenth century Mexican women who were only allowed to ride during particular fiestas and processions. The origins of escaramuza are traced to the 1950s with Luis Ortega or the Rancho del Charro being cited as its creators. The word means "skirmish" in Spanish with connotations suggesting the role of women in the Mexican Revolution.
Scholars credit professional charro Luis Ortega with creating the escaramuza after witnessing a performance of precision riding by a team of boys and girls at a fair in Houston, Texas in 1950. After returning to Mexico, he created a team and toured the country, and, in doing so, inspired the creation of similar teams. The Rancho del Charro in Mexico City has also been credited with the concept's creation on March 22, 1952 with a team of three boys and three girls. As they traveled the country, other teams were generated. In time, the escaramuza was considered demasiado femenino (too feminine) by some charros and, by 1958, boys had been eliminated from teams and the event became a strictly female precision display for teams of six to twelve members.
The women of the escaramuza wear a costume called the Adelita that consists of a high necked, full skirted dress ornamented with ribbons, white petticoats and bloomers, and a shawl that criss-crosses the chest. With the creation of escaramuza teams, women finally had the opportunity to participate in the charreada. It was necessary however to find a reason for the inclusion of escaramuza. The solution was found in tapping the image of the patriotic soldaderas of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 who bravely fought and rode beside their menfolk. However, the soldaderas also had the reputation of being lovers and whores and as such were considered morally unsuitable for the ladies of the escaramuza. The focus then narrowed to Adelita, the companion of Pancho Villa. Her reputation as a fierce fighter, chaste helpmate, and wholesome "sweetheart of the troops" recommended her as an associate of the escaramuza and made her the ideal counterpart for the charro in the male-dominant gender biased sport of charreada.
In 1992, women won the right to display their escaramuza skills in the male dominated charreada. They were guaranteed the right to have formal rules established for their sport, to have qualified judges assess their skills, and to have a sanctioned period of time within charreada to display their skills without being rushed and cut short. The changes did not occur without critics expressing their concerns that women were "refusing to stay in their place."
By emphasizing the wholesomeness of Adelita, the image of the soldaderas was sanitized and romanticized, and made less radical, less controversial, and less threatening to the male charros of the charreada. In adopting the image of the soldaderas to the escaramuza, women permitted themselves the opportunity to express something more than riding skills. The music most frequently used to accompany an escaramuza display is "Las coronelas" (The Female Colonels), a popular polka from the period of the Revolution that emphasizes the role of women as military leaders. It is possible the song is chosen not only for its evocation of the Revolution but for its subtle suggestion that women are competent leaders. The ambiguity of the song makes it attractive to women who want to push gender boundaries without being viewed as confrontational.
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