Yucatan Dispatch 6 October 7, 2009 from San Crisanto, México

There is something wonderfully exciting about rodeos, and in the case of a small-town Mexican rodeo, things can not get much steamier. Take 6 young men, clad them in tight “torero” outfits, and throw them in the rodeo in the Mexican mid-day sun, and you have the beginnings of an exciting afternoon. Add an angry bull and bleachers full of young Mexican girls and things get downright hot. Jenny and I happened upon this small-town rodeo in the town of Dzilam Gonzalez while driving around on a RAVE assignment for the International League of Conservation Photographers. This is one of several events built around the celebrations for Saint Francis of Asis; the patron saint of animals. The rodeo, coupled with a street fair and a disco party are all part of a week-long celebration in honor of the saint.

Jenny and I debate whether photographing this event has anything to do with the subject of our RAVE assignment, which is to document the relationship between the land and the people. Well, when it comes down to it, what we are witnessing is merely an extension of the “cattle-culture” that dominates this part of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cattle is one of the main economic drivers for hundreds of small ranchers and it is reflected in all aspects of the land and the people. The young men that surround us are of Maya descent and look interestingly out-of-sync dressed in cowboy outfits, down to the boots, which, by the way, are probably not the most suitable foot ware in this hot weather.

In any case, we spend a delightful afternoon watching a game that has very little to do with traditional bullfighting. In this “corrida”, Yucatan style, there are 5 “toreros” in the rodeo at any given time. After the “toreros” have chased the bull around for a few minutes and it looks tired enough, a gang of up to 20 horses erupt into the rodeo and compete to lasso the bull. The bleachers explode in cheers every time the bull comes near a horse. The lady sitting next to us explains that the previous weekend four horses were gored and gutted by the bull; all of them died.

At the end of the day, the best part of this “corrida” is that unlike traditional bull fighting events in other parts of Mexico and Spain, where the bull is speared and killed, in the “Yucatecan corrida” the bull ALWAYS gets to live, which comes as a huge relief for both Jenny and I. It turns out it is too damn expensive to kill several bulls for entertainment each weekend. Instead, it is just chased around a little and it leaves the rodeo unharmed. We call it sustainable bullfighting.