Jaripeo en Tupátaro!

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Every year, the bull ring in Tupataro comes to life on the last weekend of September for the Jaripeo. There is more than one pueblo named Tupataro in México, so just for reference, this is the one near Cueramaro, GTO. Tupataro is a very small town, only a few kilometers from its larger neighbor. Cueramaro is home to the municipal region of Cueramaro and the market town for many of the ranches in the area. But when the summer begins to wind down, everyone looks to Tupataro and its bull ring. Overnight the nearby fields fill with cars, buses change their routes to accommodate more riders, a Norteno band truck with lights and a sound crew set up a stage and the vaqueros practice their art for their moment at the jaripeo.

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Tupataro is well-known for its bull ring because it is set next to a hill that provides a natural amphitheater for people to sit above it. Of course that means sitting among the rocks and bushes, but that is better than hanging your feet over the side of the ring as many people do.

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Summer is the rainy season for the Bajio, so we enjoy a summer of moderate temperatures and frequent downpours. This year though, the rainy season started late and ended early. Coming back to Morelia from Cueramaro last Sunday, I could see that many of the dry land farmers in the region are being hit hard by the lack of water. The fields are drying up before they have a chance to yield a decent crop.  As you go up the Bajio to the North, the drought is even worse, so food prices will rise soon. This is the breadbasket of México. The government has promised aid to the farmers, but this is a proud region and living on government aid is not what people want. We’re all hoping next year will be wetter again—like last year was—but we all know it is beyond our control.

The early end to the rainy season also means the soil around the bull ring we use for the jaripeo is very dry. It becomes an extremely fine dust with just the smallest disturbance. We go wearing things we don’t mind getting dirty. We bring beer, soda, and water. We all wear hats and protect our cameras if we bring them. It is a tradition—a celebration. We look forward to it and we will go regardless of the dust and lack of facilities.

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I went with my nephew and niece and their friends. We bounced out the long dirt road from Tupataro to the parking area near the ring. You have to keep your windows closed to keep from being overwhelmed by the dust. We watch the sides of the road to be sure we haven’t wandered off in to a field as we follow other cars through the fog.

When we get to the parking lot and step out of the car, it is like stepping into flour. Your foot sinks in the dust before it finds firm ground. With a laugh, we head to the bleachers.

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The ring has a small set of cement bleachers against the hill that fills up quickly. Above that, people bring blankets, tarps or just sit on the rocks. Favored spots are hotly contested but everyone finds someplace. Because we were late, we went to the metal bleachers on the same side as the band. These bleachers are really just a place to stand. The levels are a couple of feet wide and that includes the space to move within the level and up to the next. You find a place and stand, hoping it is high enough to see over the people standing on the edge of the bull ring and you don’t get pitched to the level below you by people moving up, down and through the area you are standing in. I really think that TV reality shows are missing a bet by not taking people to compete in the jaripeo at Tapataro but they would probably say it is unlikely they could get anyone to sign up.  My answer is with enough cervesa it is surprising what people will do…

I didn’t last on the bleachers too long. I walked around to the other side where I could get some photos from above the crowd and see the action. Standing on the hill-side is considerably easier and more fun. You are looking down and across the crowd to see the action. You can feel them react as riders pitch into the dust and the bulls try to stomp them before they get up. You can taste the dust. In fact, it is all you can taste. That beer is just washing the dust down your throat. You watch as young boys throw potato-sized rocks at the bulls that stray too close to the sides. It seems cruel, but if the bull ran for the side of the ring, they would have to move quickly from a precarious position. I’ve seen boys slip over the side more than once. Yes, I will say it again—the reality shows are missing a bet here. You don’t have to make up any drama. It is right there in front of you.

As the sun began to set, people started to head down the hill carrying their blankets and the men who somehow managed to drink a bit too much beer. The band continued to play while the vaqueros gathered their equipment and animals. We stood on the edge of the ring and met the master of ceremonies, who is something of a local celebrity. Everyone posed for pictures and eventually we made our way back to the car. It had changed from maroon to tan. We turned on the windshield wipers and watched the fine dust as it was wiped off like it was snow.

When I got back to the house, I stripped off my clothes and started the washer. Another summer in México has passed—another jaripeo in Tapataro has ended.

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