Why These Mexican American Women Are Crossing The Border Into Mexico | Style Out There | Refinery29

Just look at me. Yes? Think small. I’m in Zacatecas, a historical capital city
in the center of Mexico. Nice! It’s 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, Mexico’s national sport. It’s a raucous month-long rodeo, but amidst the chaos of dancing ropes
and stomping hooves, there is one display that’s impossible to miss. Escaramuza. It’s the only event that’s exclusively
for women. It’s a high stakes ballet on horseback,
like synchronized swimming but at 15 miles an hour. It’s also one of the only sports that scores
you on what you’re 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. I’m here to follow two of them. That was cool! One, seasoned champs from California. We’ve been practicing week after week. One ride, let’s 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? I’m not sure if I’m more Mexican or if
I’m more American. I’m 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 bachelor’s degree in business education. Her drive for the American dream came from
her father. My dad and I, we’re really close. He trains horses, he lives with horses. Nearly a decade ago, Mireya’s father packed
up their family and fled from Mexico where it became too dangerous to work as a rancher. Now he’s legally seeking asylum in the U.S. He holds two full-time jobs trying to rebuild
all that he worked for back home. They’ve built a life here. But it wasn’t easy. It was a really big shock when my family and
I moved here. We didn’t know anything of the culture,
the language. This is something that’s 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, I’m like my parent’s
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. I’m 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. You’re 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, Mireya’s dad is unable
to make the trip to Mexico. Instead, she’ll 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 didn’t really have that opportunity to
make it happen if it weren’t for my dad because he’s 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. We’re called coronelas. It describes a strong woman. Not necessarily like physically, but strong
women mentally and driven. WAITING FOR TRANSLATION. Across the country in California Real de Valle has a secret weapon. Frine is one of escaramuza’s most respected
coaches. She’s 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 Frine’s 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 you’re 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 she’ll 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. They’re 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 weren’t 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. Rosaria. 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 grandfather’s ranch, Mireya
has an opportunity to reconnect with her family. It’s a moment she’s been waiting for for
years, and one few working class immigrants get. It’s here, with her grandfather, that Mireya first discovered her love for riding. It’s 10pm the night before the performance
and Frine’s 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. It’s 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? Let’s hope so! I didn’t help! You have to put it through your head. We need to prove ourselves that we didn’t
just get here, because the judges were being easy. This is all horse sweat. Horse sweat, but some of that is red. Yep. What’s that? I think I spilled Kool-Aid on it. It’s raining? Ugh. It’s raining. Now I need to fix my dress. If the girls are out of sync, if they spin
when they’re supposed to slide if their bows don’t 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. Frine’s front runners look like they’re
masters at work. But Frine looks worried. With one U.S. team on shaky ground, the pressure
mounts for Illinois. I’m feeling really excited and nervous. My family from the ranch, from La Gavia, they are here and so I think that’s also
part of my excitement. It’s 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? Yes! 294.66. No way! [Girls cheering] Group hug! Group hug! I’m 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 Coronelas’s time in Mexico validates their place in this sport and in
a country many used to call home. Uno, dos, tres. I’m 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. Thank you for watching Style Out There. To see more videos, click here. To subscribe to Refinery29, click here.

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