La Esperanza is very small village, or hamlet, located about 3 to 4 km from Grand River Lodge. It takes about an hour to walk there on foot, about 20-minutes to ride there on horseback and about 5 to 8-minutes to get there by pickup truck if you can thumb a ride.
Saturday and Sunday a small Rodeo came to town. It wasn’t the Calgary Stampede, or the big production in Madison Square Garden, but it was a big deal in La Esperanza. The highlight of the event was the bull riding contest. The contestants are locals, young macho muchachos all trying to out macho each other to the delight of the equally young senoritas. There is typically a lot of cerveza involved.
The Vaqueros are as much a part of the show as the bulls themselves, and the horsemanship and skill with a rope these cowboys demonstrate is truly amazing. It falls upon the Vaqueros to keep people from getting themselves maimed or killed. And they’ve been drinking cerveza all the while too. Once the rider is thrown, and he’s always thrown, it’s complete anarchy (or so it appears). The bull charges around the ring trying to stomp the spectators, many of whom are in the ring themselves, and to cause as much mayhem as possible. The spectators inside ring, mostly young men, are inebriated too (cerveza being a big thing at the Rodeo).
This goes on for about 3 or 4-hours, allowing about a dozen suicidal volunteers to try their hand at getting themselves killed. We, in the stands, meanwhile are having a great time—you guessed it, drinking cerveza, listening to the blaring music, the equally loud announcer and cheering our favorite riders on to glory.
Vaquero at Full Gallop
Now, I won’t dwell on this too much, but in addition to the bulls and Vaqueros there is plenty of eye-candy, Tacos de Ojo, roaming around the stands trying to be noticed by the young (and not so young) hombres. I would be negligent in my photographic duties if I didn’t try to capture some of that effort, and after all I am a professional with standards to maintain. The young señorita below talked a Vaquero into lending her his horse, and proceeded to prance around the arena in-between bull rides garnering a lot of attention. She played to the audience, and the camera, well. And she seated her horse very nicely.
Taco de Ojo
You will be glad to know (or maybe not) that I resisted the temptation to actually ride a bull myself. Nothing would have pleased the crowd more than to see a gringo make the attempt, and I was sorry to disappoint them, but thought it more important to preserve my hide. We had a great time participating in this local event, and a number of locals came up to us to ask questions and show appreciation for our enthusiasm.
A brief note about animal rights in the context of this event. Animals here are not pets. Animals are food, animals are tools and sometimes animals are for sport. Once you leave the USA, Canada and Europe (the privileged few) you will find this truism seems to prevail worldwide. I personally support animal rights and education, but hundreds of years of cultural habit (and real world necessity) will not be overcome easily (especially if no alternatives are offered). To think otherwise is at the very least naive, and at its worst patronizing. Having said all that, I saw no overt cruelty or hardship directed at these animals, and actually the humans involved were the ones abused. Were these animals being exploited for entertainment? Yes. But it must also be said that they were healthy and well taken care of. As a traveler, it is incumbent upon me to sometimes sit silent and suspend judgement—the answers are not simply black and white, but rather varying shades of gray. We in the First World can be pretty patronizing and smug with our accumulated wealth and standard of living, those living in the Second and Third World don’t often have that advantage. Difficult as it sometimes is, I can live with those contradictions when necessary. SFD
Reporting from La Esperanza, in the Rio San Juan, Nicaragua . . .