The Festival Nacional de Doma y Folklore is the biggest music and cowboy festival in Argentina attracting entrants from all over South America. Each year the sleepy town of Jesus Maria swells with over 200,000 visitors over 10 days of traditional folk music and feats of skill by the Gauchos (South American cowboys).
We arrived on the first day of the event and were not sure what to expect. The opening ceremony surprised and impressed. It started with an Olympics style entry of the gaucho contestants behind their regional or national banners. Followed by horse riders in traditional regional costumes followed by the school children of Jesus Maria dressed in white and a virgin Mary statuette carried by four men. Two dancers appeared in the corner, and a samurai army of dancers ran out and line up behind them. As the two dancers made their way to the centre the army swelled beyond expectations, about 400 people stormed the field and took up the dance. Upside down riders suspended between two horses, fireworks, the excitement builds towards a crescendo. Rambling introductions by several notaries, the excitement subsides and we entertain ourselves by observing the Papas Fritas toting spruikers.
Opening ceremony complete, it was the gauchos turn to shine. They took turns riding the young horses that had not been broken in yet, rodeo style. Quite the achievement to stay upright and mounted for the brief time between the bells. More managed than not. We heard from our Hostel owner the next day that one of the gauchos broke his leg during a fall.
We took a minibus back to Cordoba around midnight, just as things were getting started. We are still adjusting to Argentinian time, our dinner is only pushed back to around 9pm these days.