January in Denver means plenty of skiing, struggling with New Year’s resolutions, celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, and, of course, the annual Stock Show, a time-honored tradition for more than a century.
The 106th National Western Stock Show (Jan. 7-22) opened last week and showcases one of the most popular Mexican rodeos in the country. And for nearly 20 years the NWSS has featured the Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza presented by Gerardo “Jerry” Diaz, a fourth-generation Mexican-American charro, known worldwide for his rodeo skills.
Last weekend, Diaz hosted the 18th annual Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza. Presented by Univision, Tricolore and Pepsi, the event featured Diaz and performances by Charros El Centenario, Charros Del Bajio, Charros Division del Norte, Charros Las Delicias and the side-saddle team of Las Amazonas de Colorado directed by Naiomy Torrez. This year’s bullfighting show included Mexican Bullfighters Paco Muñoz and Alberto Gutierrez Hernandez displaying the art of the cape and bull. As with all his shows Diaz dresses in traditional charro attire and performs precision roping maneuvers with his horses’ skills in dancing, tricks, dressage and reining while mariachi music plays in the background.
As a director and lifetime member of the National Western Diaz of course has a stake in its continued success, but the charro tradition runs deep in his family and is a way of life, he said. The charro term belongs to a specialized form of horsemanship, rope artistry and handling horses and cattle in competition derived over centuries from the earliest Spaniard and Mexican cowboy traditions.
Diaz’s father, Jose “Pepe” Diaz from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico turns 93 this year and continues to influence his son. In the late 1930s Pepe trained horses for Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas and the first family.
When not on the rodeo show circuit, he and wife, Staci, and son Nicholas can be found at the family’s 50-acre Three Mile Creek Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas (just northeast of San Antonio) where they train horses to dance and trick as well as reining and dressage for their performances nationwide. Only the finest horses are trained to dance in specialized movements such as side pass, Spanish walk and pirouettes. Among the highlights of the Mexican Rodeo is one of Diaz’s trademark rope tricks: using a 65-foot rope around one of his stallions while in a full gallop around the arena.
“It’s a very beautiful program,” he says enthusiastically. “The Mexican rodeo show has become very popular because of the color, flair and history. People call me from all over the country to perform.”
The list of his awards would extend from here to San Antonio. Just a year ago this month, he was inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. And in 2004, he was inducted to the Texas Trail of Fame. But the honor closest to his heart is being invited to perform at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.
Diaz has traveled throughout the country from the Professional Rodeo Circuit to the Economic Summit for world leaders. And this May he will be heading overseas to London to perform for the Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee, which celebrates the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II, scheduled from June 2-5.
“It’s quite an honor,” he said. “There will be 15 heads of horses with representation from all over the world, and I’m very proud to represent the Mexican charro tradition.”
For cowpokes and city slickers alike, Denver stock show audiences have always admired the art, talent, technique and passion of this centuries-old Hispanic tradition of horsemanship and skill. La Voz salutes the National Western and the Mexican cowboy culture that evolved from the Spanish rodeo traditions transplanted from Mexico to Latin America and the U.S. For more information visit www.nationalwestern.com.