Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Why These Mexican American Women Are Crossing The Border Into Mexico | Style Out There | Refinery29

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Just look at me.


Think small.

Im in Zacatecas, a historical capital city in the center of Mexico.


Its a hotbed for charro fashion where stylish cowgirls and rodeo kings alike are pouring

in for the event of the year.

The Nacional de Charrería Championship is the Superbowl of charrería, Mexicos national sport.

Its a raucous month-long rodeo,

but amidst the chaos of dancing ropes and stomping hooves, there is one display

thats impossible to miss.


Its the only event thats exclusively for women.

Its a high stakes ballet on horseback, like synchronized swimming but at 15 miles an hour.

Its also one of the only sports that scores you on what youre wearing.

Regulations mandate heavy sombreros, puffy

sleeves, and ankle skimming hemlines.

Details rooted in Mexican tradition.

But this year, more teams than ever

are coming from the United States.

Im here to follow two of them.

That was cool!

One, seasoned champs from California.

Weve been practicing week after week.

One ride, lets give it our all.

The other underdogs from Illinois.

Dude I think you look a little bit too fluffy with that.

Yeah, I feel like I might look too fluffy too.

At a time when straddling

the border feels nearly impossible

Your staff are speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English.

This is America.

And Mexico has been the target of ire from the highest seat of U.S. politics

Do you have papers?

Do you have papers?

What does it mean to double down on your heritage, when lots of people are telling you to leave it behind?

Im not sure if Im more Mexican or if Im more American.

Im kind of like in-between.

I have to be able to relate to both, to being Mexican and then also bounce back from that

idea and relate to being American.

An hour outside of Chicago, an unexpected community has formed.

Over the past three decades, this predominantly white midwestern suburb has become a home

for Mexican-Americans, who now make up nearly 30% of its population.

I have been living in Illinois

for the past nine years.

This is the only other place besides Mexico that I know.

I do the same thing over and over throughout the week.

I just study in the morning, work in the afternoons, and then in between I find time to make it

to escaramuza.

Nineteen year old Mireya moved here when she was 10 years old.

She works at a local Boost Mobile store while pursuing a bachelors degree in business education.

Her drive for the American dream came from her father.

My dad and I, were really close.

He trains horses, he lives with horses.

Nearly a decade ago, Mireyas father packed up their family and fled from Mexico

where it became too dangerous to work as a rancher.

Now hes legally seeking asylum in the U.S.

He holds two full-time jobs trying to rebuild all that he worked for back home.

Theyve built a life here.

But it wasnt easy.

It was a really big shock when my family and I moved here.

We didnt know anything of the culture, the language.

This is something thats from my personal experience, but I noticed that for a lot of

immigrant families, they rely on the kids a lot.

Yes, till this day, Im like my parents personal translator for everything.

It is a huge deal for me to be able to go to this Nacional in Zacatecas.

I am not only going for the sport.

Im also going because I will be able to reunite with my family there.

The last time that I went to Zacatecas was in 2015 and that was the last time that I

saw my grandma alive.

Youre going to be the literal bridge between your family in Illinois and your family in Mexico.

Yeah, yeah especially for my father.

For legal reasons, Mireyas dad is unable to make the trip to Mexico.

Instead, shell head down with her scrappy but mighty squad

Las Coronelas de Illinois.

From the time that I remember I have always wanted to become an escaramuza and to become

this rider that I am today.

I didnt really have that opportunity to make it happen if it werent for my dad

because hes the one that made that grow inside me.

Ahead of nationals, Las Coronelas patch together resources.

A borrowed barn, horses from various farms, a few hours in the dark after

school and work in order to prepare.

Were called coronelas.

It describes a strong woman.

Not necessarily like physically, but strong women mentally and driven.


Across the country in California

Real de Valle has a secret weapon.

Frine is one of escaramuzas most respected coaches.

Shes Mexican, from Tijuana.

But coaches teams from both sides of the border.

With a fierce approach to the sport and a knowledge of what it takes to win

Frines brought 14 different teams to the championships.

While outside the ring many immigrants are told they must speak English

inside the arena, Frine insists that her riders speak only in Spanish.

It can feel dangerous to celebrate

being Mexican just with what's going on in the United States right now.

In that way do you feel like youre doing something to make these women more brave and

more courageous about their identities?

Above all, charrería has given Mireya a sense of confidence as a Mexican-American.

Confidence that shell need to compete back in her hometown of Zacatecas.

Out of 114 teams that are gearing up to compete in Zacatecas, only 16 have qualified from

the United States.

But in order to ride, their outfits must still be traditionally Mexican.

Theyre called Adelita dresses.

Behind the frills and petticoats is a history of bravery and battle.

The Adelitas were a group of women who fought during the Mexican revolution in 1910, a time

when women werent expected to ride, let alone assist in battle.

Today, these women are honored in both the uniform itself and through the spirit of the sport.

The team sources their uniforms from a legendary local seamstress.


Each dress is completely custom and can run up to three hundred

fifty dollars a pop.

Did you choose the colors of the flowers specifically?

No, we actually got the design off of Pinterest.

Just an hour outside of Zacatecas city, but worlds away from the stress of competition,

a long-awaited reunion is taking place.

By visiting her grandfathers ranch, Mireya has an opportunity to reconnect with her family.

Its a moment shes been waiting for for years, and one few working class immigrants get.

Its here, with her grandfather, that Mireya first discovered her love for riding.

Its 10pm the night before the performance and Frines team is prac ticing in the dark.

The power in the arena has gone out, forcing them to work on final adjustments by headlight.

While most teams would be in bed by now resting up before their big show, Frine will work

Real de Valles until each move is perfect.

Its competition day.

The Real de Valles and Coronelas basecamps are buzzing.

Have you worn these dresses before?

We wore them once for our first state competition.

These are lucky dresses then?

Lets hope so!

I didnt help!

You have to put it through your head.

We need to prove ourselves that we didnt just get

here, because the judges were being easy.

This is all horse sweat.

Horse sweat, but some of that is red.


Whats that?

I think I spilled Kool-Aid on it.

Its raining?


Its raining.

Now I need to fix my dress.

If the girls are out of sync, if they spin when theyre supposed to slide

if their bows dont match

points will be deducted.

And with each decimal point,

the dream of making the semi-finals and of more time here in Zacatecas goes with it.

The odds are stacked against the American teams.

And the stakes are especially high.

The California squad storms in, looking to make a name for Real de Valles.

Frines front runners look like theyre masters at work.

But Frine looks worried.

With one U.S. team on shaky ground, the pressure mounts for Illinois.

Im feeling really excited and nervous.

My family from the ranch, from La Gavia,

they are here and so I think thats also part of my excitement.

Its on.

Charging through the arena like true warriors, Las Coronelas de

Illinois are poised, powerful, and in control.

As I watch them spin in layers of crinoline, visions of Adelitas from centuries ago, it

occurs to me that, today, this sport and its pageantry really tells the story about the

grace and bravery of these women who dedicate their lives to it.

On top of their horses, in these dresses, escaramuzas like Mireya are proudly announcing

who they are and where they belong.

Ever since the elections I do feel that wearing an escaramuza dress is more

than just wearing team gear.

It's more like sending a message, and proving that I am proud of being Mexican American.

Their team captain must meet with a panel of judges to review their performance.

Outside, Las Coronelas wait for the final verdict.

Okay, you guys want to hear it?



No way!

[Girls cheering]

Group hug!

Group hug!

Im texting my dad our score.

I am really, really happy.

We all doubted ourselves because we were in a whole different

country, different arena, horses.

As the second highest scoring team from the United States, Las Coronelass time in Mexico

validates their place in this sport and in a country many used to call home.

Uno, dos, tres.

Im really proud to consider myself an escaramuza.

I feel honored to wear and conserve the tradition.

Just like the uniforms, escaramuza is a bold sport.

It takes courage, grace, and dedication.

It tells the world who you are and where you came from.

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