Skirmish Girls Prepare to Represent Southern California
A group of 10 girls ages 7-11 from the Coachella Valley practice at least twice a week to hone their equestrian skills. His goal, to win an international skirmish championship in Querétaro, Mexico in the summer.
Escaramuza Charra Alteza is the first youth escaramuza team in the Coachella Valley and the only escaramuza team representing Southern California recognized by the Federación Mexicana de Charrería. The equestrian sport of skirmishes is only for women. They must mount the horse with both legs at the side while performing impeccable choreography.
One of the nine participants is 11-year-old Miranda López, who began riding shortly after the group was created in June 2021. She expressed that although it is a bit difficult for her, she enjoys it a lot.
“I feel very happy when I ride because I like how they dress [las escaramuzas] and they look very pretty”, said the girl.
He added that the group has not only helped him focus on equestrian sport but also on his education. His grades have improved and now she concentrates better on her studies.
Another participant is Arlinda Pérez, 8, who said she likes being part of the group because she has met new friends who have the same passion for horses as she does.
“I have learned to ride my mare and to do my routine,” Pérez said.
His parents bought his mare four months ago and he decided to name her Angel in honor of the guardian angel. Little Ella explained that she is a bit nervous for the upcoming competitions, but she is also very excited and ready to win.
One of the smallest participants is Xiomara Jacinto, 7 years old. The girl herself claimed that she found her passion for horses after seeing the Disney movie Spirit.
“I wanted to be like Lucky,” Jacinto said, referring to the film's main character, who is a girl who owns a horse named Spirit.
Jacinto explained that he also likes to wear the dress as it represents his culture and roots. She added that she feels a bit nervous about the upcoming competitions, but she is ready to help her group to be the winner.
Leonel López, Miranda's father, said that he started in the charrería at the age of 13 and since his four children were born he has instilled in them a love of horses and Mexican culture.
He explained that when he learned of the group of skirmishes in the city of Indio, López did not hesitate to take Miranda.
"My daughter has ridden a little since she was little and I asked her if she wanted to participate and she was delighted to say yes," Leonel said. "Since we arrived, Miranda liked it, she made friends with the girls and since then we haven't stopped."
Yolanda Mendoza, Arlinda's mother, explained that she has always liked animals and when she found out about Gallegos' group she brought her daughter and from the first moment she really enjoyed it.
“Since we found out that they were going to compete, we received the news with open arms because we try to include them in the Mexican culture, language and customs,” said Yolanda, who was born in the United States but spent periods of her childhood in Chihuahua and Jalisco.
Empowering girls through sport
María A. Gallegos, coach of the team, indicated that the group was formed in June 2021 due to the lack of activities during the Covid-19 pandemic. The objective is to honor, revive and keep alive the cultural and rural traditions of the charrería through empowering and healthy activities for youth.
She said that a neighbor asked her if she could teach her to ride and she accepted and invited other girls to learn.
“We started riding to distract them a little bit,” said Gallegos, who is known to friends and family as Toni.
Word began to spread and later Gallegos posted on Facebook that they were looking for more girls to form the Escaramuza Charra Alteza group and more girls began to arrive.
The trainer has more than three decades of experience as a skirmisher. She said that since she was a child she liked to see the Adelitas and the charros parade in her native San Luis Potosí, Mexico.
“I grew up on a ranch and whenever I saw them I said, 'one day I'm going to dress nice and ride like them,'” the trainer recalled.
In 1982 he emigrated to the United States, settling in the Coachella Valley, first in the city of Cathedral and later moving to Indio where he bought his ranch. She eventually learned to ride, joined a skirmish group in 1991 and a few years later she created her own group, Las Potosinas, where she included her daughters.
Now that she has the Escaramuza Charra Alteza group well organized, Gallegos said she is starting a new group with younger girls called Nuevo Amanecer.
Gallegos explained that the most important thing a girl needs when she wants to learn to skirmish is to have the full support of her parents. They need a horse, it doesn't have to be purebred and if they don't have space at home, Gallegos offers them pens.
“I don't charge them, they just bring them food and I feed them. Nothing more”, she explained, adding that now all the girls who are part of the Escaramuza Alteza group already have their horses.
López said that he feels fortunate to be able to offer this opportunity to his children since there are many children who would like to do it but due to lack of resources they do not achieve it. He plans that he will soon include his 6-year-old daughter Isabella in the skirmish group.
The competitions begin
The group is already preparing for the four competitions in the United States before traveling to Mexico; the Pre-State, State 1, State 2 and Nacionalito, Gallegos said.
The first pre-state competition is May 15. In June the pre-state and later the national where they will compete against groups from Illinois and Texas.
The Alteza group is scheduled to travel to the state of Querétaro in the summer. Now the girls and their families are doing everything in their power to raise the more than $20,000 they need to make the trip. They have already done food sales and have a GoFundMe page.
About 50 people are expected to travel in the group, including skirmishers, parents and coaches. The girls cannot bring their horses so they must rent their horses. They plan to leave at least a week in advance so that the skirmishes can be mated with the horses that will be participating.
Eight girls will participate and one will be on the bench as a replacement if needed.
“Right now what costs the most is that we have to rent a hotel for all the girls and their parents, we have to buy the flights and rent the horses. From there, the other expenses are less,” said Galleos.
She hopes that with this group the little skirmishes can proudly represent the roots of their parents and grandparents, since all the girls are born in the United States.
His first Pre-state competition is this May 15 and the national one on June 3, 2022.
To support the group you can visit gofundme and type: Help us make escaramuza history!
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