A night at the Jaripeo.
I was the only gringo to be seen in the tiny town of San Antonino, Oaxaca, as the crowd started to gather for the marquee event of the year. The Jaripeo bull riding tournament. Tuk Tuks darting down the one street leading to the temporary arena just out of town. It was looking like the whole town was going to be there.
I was in for a very Mexican night. This is how the people in these small towns like to have fun. Men and even the kids dressed up in their full cowboy gear, sombrero, jeans, boots and checkered shirt.
Watching the sun go down over the mountains, we found a spot in the small arena as the crowd was pouring in. Within 30 minutes, we couldn’t move.
Vendors squeezing their way through the crowd selling everything from nuts, chips, corn, beers, pizza and burgers. There was slim hope of getting up and going to the toilet. We were jam packed.
A Jaripeo is not a Jaripeo without loud music pumping from the band. All typical Oaxacan banda music. And if you could imagine your typical stereotype Mexican Jaripeo guy, sombrero, big moustache and big buckled belt, he was the front man/MC. Whatever he was saying had the crowd in stitches all night.
Riders were introduced into the ring, making a big cross sign on the dirt and their chest, and praying that tonight, everything was going to be ok.
These bulls entering the ring were enormous. They came in, persuaded into their barrier with a little help from the edgy crew. The rider enters, again with a big cross sign on the dirt, then his chest, a quick look up to the heavens, slaps his legs and gets himself pumped on the way to the bull. He climbs up and stands over the big beast.
Checking everything good to go, he waits for the bull to settle. And in a split second he drops down onto the bull as the gate is pulled open. As i can only describe as utter madness, he’s holding on for dear life. The beast is going nuts, bucking him all around the ring and dancing around. He holds on for as long as he can until he’s finally thrown off. With every bit of energy he has left, he sprints to the nearest fence and rolls under. He’s safe.
The longer the ride, the bigger the cheers. They were loving it.
The Jaripeo half time show came in two parts. First, a guy dancing around the ring holding some fireworks. With fireworks exploding behind him.
Then one of the funniest half time shows I’ve seen anywhere. And the best part of the night. The MC called for 5 girls to volunteer and come forward to the centre of the ring. Hesitantly the 5 girls were found. Then 5 men. As 5 men rushed to the centre to join the girls. They were about to play a couple games. First, on opposite sides of the ring, the girls had to run and jump on the men and ride them. Which had everyone cracking up.
Second, they put a seat in the middle, the man sat down, and the girl could slap the man on the face. As hard she wanted. Big ‘ohhhh’s’ from everyone. But little did the girls know, it was the boys turn. But the girls got the choice between a slap on the bum with the hand, or the belt. Surprisingly they all chose the belt. And a few of the guys didn’t hold back either. It was hilarious. As the 5 pairs had their turn, it was up to the crowd to vote with the cheers. As it got to the final two, there was a winner. The prize was cash that was getting donated from the crowd. 100 pesos, 200 pesos. In the end, the last four got around 500 pesos each. Which is a lot of money in Mexico.
After about 15 riders the entertaining night came to an end with the dancing fireworks man. Maybe after a few more beers and mezcals he was swinging that thing around without a care in the world.
It was a funny entertaining night at the Jaripeo and well worth it. I think the smaller town you go to the better. You really get a feel for the Mexican way. These nights are the reason I love Mexico and I love to travel. Especially to be away from the gringo trail and get to experience the real Mexico.
Have you been to a Jaripeo in Mexico? Want to go? Feel free to leave me a comment below.