the Chilean huasos are skilled horsemen, honing their skills daily. Over the years, the huaso has come to signify much of the Chilean folkloric culture, and he is a vital part of parades, fiestas, and holidays.

Dressed in his best finery, a huaso is proud, confident and sure of his place in Chilean history. He and his well-trained horse are masters of the Chilean rodeo.

As elsewhere, cattle ranching and farming are determined by geography and climate. In Chile, the most fertile areas are in the Central Zone.

From a little bit north of the capital of Santiago extending south are prime agricultural lands. Vineyards, farms, and ranches abound. This is huaso territory, where rural traditions continue and the rodeo is a seasonal event, part of the Independence Day festivities held the week of September 18. Chileans kick up dirt, heels at rodeo tells the story, with pictures.

Since criollo times, when each spring groups of horsemen corraled cattle for sale, branding and castrating, the skill needed for these activities developed into the Chilean rodeo is an exercise in teamwork between huaso and horse, which must be specially trained to gallop sideways. Between them, they move cattle into a rounded enclosure without roping.

Over the years, the traditional hauso attire has evolved into a dress version and everyday working outfit. Both consist of the hat loose fitting pants, usually striped, a short jacket, fringed leather boots, and the chamanta, a short multi-colored blanket, over the shoulders, also called a manta or a poncho. A distinguishing feature is the traditional red sash worn around the waist, with the fringed ends over the left hip. For ceremonial events, the huaso uses elaborately carve stirrups, called Estribos in wood, leather or brass and decorated spurs, like these Espuelas de Plata.

Huasos have added to Chilean culture through literature, music and cuisine. Popular for decades, the group called Los Huasos Quincheros and others have sung songs of huaso feats. The Rodeo was named the Chilean national sport in January 1962 and is now a spring and summer weekend event in hundreds of rings, called media lunas.

After the rodeo, there's food, usually beef, beans, lots of red wine and chicha, accordion music and dancing. The national dance, the cueca is the place for the huaso and his partner, or China to display their costumes and dancing abilities.

Huasos, colorful, skilled horsemen, and essentially Chilean!