The word Chagra comes form the Quichua word “Chakra” that means parcel or piece of land.
These Andean cowboys developed their specific cultural aspects after the Conquest.
They were the men of confidence of the Spanish; there fore the Spanish taught them the art of horseback riding (an activity that indigenous weren’t allowed to do) and the skills to deal with brave bulls.
Hacienda El Tambo is located on the Central Andes of Ecuador. On the slopes of Quilindaña Volcano and Cotopaxi Volcano, on a privilege area known as the “land of the four corners” due to the volcanoes that surrounds Cotopaxi.
Tambo on Quichua language means: “place to rest”. This inns were strategically located every day of walking distance during Inca times. And this Tambo was located on one of the roads that connect the highlands with the Amazon Basin Jungles.
During the conquest the Jesuit arrive in the area and claimed the land for the King of Spain. They destroyed the Tambo and with that carved stone they build the corrals that will hold the cattle that they introduce.
After hundreds of years, the house was restored with part of the Inca stone, and the corrals that build the Jesuit kept holding the cattle during the rodeos.
For privacy reasons, space and cultural ways I don’t think that staying at Manuel’s house is a good idea. The team can sleep on a chagra hut, right next to the hacienda. This is located 1 km away form Manuel’s house.
Planning the rodeo involves a lot of logistics since more than 100 people will stay at the hacienda for the following 7 days.
Most of the work assigned during the year to the chagras that work at the hacienda is related to the improvement of the next year’s rodeo.
We first invite the neighbours, other chagras living within the area, to participate on the rodeo. It is a reciprocity relation in which they help us and we are expected to help them back. They receive a daily payment for their job.
Women that cook for the chagras are also invited. They will attend the chagras and pamper them with plenty of food, hot drinks and alcohol during the whole stay.
Other chagras will come form far and remote places to join us, since this rodeo is very popular among chagras.
The Rodeo: ritual and maximum expression of chagra culture
Arrival day to the hacienda. Adrenaline can be felt on both: people and horses. Meeting of friends that haven’t seen each other. Drink, talk and sleep.
D1.- First day of rodeo. Usually not as crowded. Lost of excitement. Chagras show proudly their new horses and attires to their mates.
The bomba is held. Welcome greetings by Patr on Juanito, the owner of Hacienda El Tambo.
D1-D6 Each day we work on a different area of the hacienda. Work consist on an early morning “bomba” were the instructions are given. Then the group is divided into smaller groups that will be doing the “paradas”, strategic places on the highest points of the mountains where the chagras will wait until everybody is in position.
Once the chagras are on position they will burn some hey to make a smoke signal and all the chagras will begun to go down on a U shape figure with the cattle in the middle, leading the cattle towards the corrals.
Some of the cattle will escape, so the chagras will chase these bulls and lasso them in the middle of the highlands.