Medialunas: Sweeter than PETA

Or how I learned to stop worrying and HATE the rodeo

La Medialuna en Rancagua

On Sunday, April 11, 2010, I experienced the wonder of the Chilean rodeo.  I’ll try to keep this short.  Remarkably, there’s not much I can say after five hours of watching the rodeo.  It’s basically the same thing over and over… and over.

In the first part of the rodeo, both men and women compete.  It’s really just showing your horse off, making it run this way and that, stopping quickly, doing circles and figure eights.  Competitors, men and women alike, are dressed in traditional huaso style.  In fact, many of the spectators chose to dress up for the event as well.  As I looked out over the medialuna (the stadium that holds the competition, called a “crescent moon” due to its shape), I saw hundreds of chupallas bobbing in the crowd.  I did wish I had one… I had to apply sunscreen numerous times.

Outside of the arena: mote con huesillo stands, restaurants, booths set up with artisan goods and all the makings of a proper huaso.  Women walking around in white dresses.

And in the medialuna—two horsemen run a novillo (a three-year-old calf) around a small fenced area to tire it out a little.  The fence is opened, and the horsemen chase the novillo across the medialuna, slamming it against the wall strategically to get the most points possible.  The novillo probably falls to the ground, seemingly casually sitting with his legs folded under him, as two men run out to rouse it into rising again—with a pull of the tail and a smack in the face, the novillo is usually back up, unless complications necessitate grabbing its legs and rolling it over.  Back up and running, one horse at its tail, another pushing it at its flank, spittle covering its back, it’s rushed to be slammed into two more walls before being led out of the medialuna.  Dozens of huasos stand by and wait their turn in the center of the ring.

I couldn’t get used to it.  I’m no animal rights activist, don’t get me wrong, but I was upset to be there instead of going to church.  Or doing my homework.  Or serving jury duty.  The idea is to have an important cultural experience.  I don’t know if observing the lack of PETA in this country is valuable or not… Maybe I exaggerate.

Regardless, as usual, the Chileans around me were much more entertaining than whatever was happening in the ring (probably because for four hours of the five we watched the rodeo, the huasos were ramming cows into walls).  Vendors passing and re-passing all day shouting, “Helado! Helaohelaohelao! Piñachocolatehelao!”  Others carrying soda coolers, cabritas (popcorn), or peanuts with merquén.  Laughter rushing through the crowd as some sort of “clown,” a black figure covering his face, sneaks through the crowd.  A rag doll the size of a small child being tossed around the medialuna until it falls apart… and the stares we received from those onlookers in front of us as we compared the conceptualization of “Prince Charming” versus “el príncipe azul“… we were glaringly gringa.

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