The Autry National Center • PBS' VOCES series • Midway College • Muestra de Cine GuadaLAjara • PBS WORLD Channels • University of Southern California • National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame • CineFestival en San Antonio • San Diego Latino Film Festival • Arizona International Film Festival (winner: Special Jury Award for Bridging Cultures) • San Francisco DocFest • 1st Equus Film Festival
After four long years ESCARAMUZA: RIding from the Heart is finally finished. Our latest documentary tells the story of Escaramuza Charra Las Azaleas, a team of first-generation Mexican American horsewomen on a two-year journey to represent California and the United States at the National Charro Championships in Mexico.
America’s original rodeo, rooted in the cattle culture of Colonial Mexico, Charreada blends the equestrian skills, handcrafted tack, elegant costumes, music, and food of that rich heritage into a living folk tradition. Between the men’s riding and roping contests, the female escaramuzas charras perform their perilous, precision horse ballets, bending and twisting their galloping reining horses around each other in intricate synchronized patterns, like weaving a hair braid at warp speed.
For the eight young members of Las Azaleas, “escaramuza”—skirmish—describes not only the danger and fierceness of competition, but the tug of war between New World modernity and freedom versus the Old World traditions and values embodied in their Charrería culture, where “to be Charro is to be Mexican.”
The film follows Las Azaleas as they rigorously train to compete in Mexico amid growing family obligations and concerns about violence across the border. Their sometimes difficult choices demonstrate the values of goal-setting, teamwork, personal responsibility and sacrifice, grace under pressure, and strong family ties—making Las Azaleas inspiring role models in a world where Latina female athletes are few and far between.
At home, as California and U.S. champions, Las Azaleas work hard to pass on their inherited tradition and values to the next generation—their sons and daughters, little brothers and little sisters. In Mexico, competing against the very best of the best, they must come to terms with their own complicated relationship to the culture they love.
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