Escaramuza: Riding from the Heart is a documentary following a group of first-generation Mexican-American women, Las Azaleas, as they compete in rodeos, hoping to represent California and the United States at the National Charro Championships in Mexico.
Charro is a blend of “equestrian skills, handcrafted tack, elegant costumes, music, and foods,” and is a folk tradition. A type of horseback riding competition that is a combination of arduous sport and intricate art. Charro is practiced by teams of female horseback riders. The moves are complicated, and the demands of the competition are brutal.
Escaramuza, or skirmish, describes both their daredevil horseback ballets, ridden sidesaddle at top speed, and the intensity of their competition season. Neither life-altering challenges at home nor violence across the border can keep Las Azaleas from their goal. The documentary explores the ways their identities as first-generation Mexican Americans are shaped by the values of their traditional equestrian culture.
Training is rigorous and Las Azaleas must win competitions in the United States to qualify to compete in Mexico. The team is comprised of family members and friends who “perform perilous, precision horse ballets” in synchronized routines at high speed—and sidesaddle. The women dress in elegant suits and colorful, ruffled dresses in a cultural tradition that honors the memory of women soldaderas (known as Adelitas) who during the Mexican revolution would ride as decoys to lure the Federales into an ambush.
You will find yourself holding your breath as you watch Las Azaleas, the team that the film follows, advance from competitions in Southern California to the big time in Mexico. Problems both human and equine arise along the way, but those difficulties only serve to draw the viewer more deeply into the journey of Las Azaleas.
Watching this movie you will find yourself sharing the hopes of Las Azaleas and cheering them on. Can they win the big competition in Mexico? Watch this movie and find out. The film is both informative and entertaining, and you’ll have a great time along the way.
Escaramuza: Riding from the Heart is an intimate look at the members of Las Azaleas, in which they express their hopes, fears, and love for what is a combination of pageantry and sport. It is also required viewing for aspiring horsewomen.
Las Azaleas, led by Sandy Torres and Maribel Gutiérrez, have won numerous state, regional, and U.S. national championships, training hard while balancing their family lives with their commitment to escaramuza.