A Texas Tradition

Learn about escaramuzas, a Texas tradition, by taking a closer look at Mexican American Verónica Dávila’s dress featured in the National Museum of American History’s exhibition, Girlhood (It’s Complicated).

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Mexican American Verónica Dávila started riding horses at the age of three; by age four she was competing in escaramuzas, synchronized riding demonstrations. Dávila wore this colorful dress (right) in the early 2000s as captain of the San Antonio, Texas, escaramuza team Las Valentinas.

Dávila’s dress tells a story of girls’ achievement and the Mexican American community’s efforts to preserve charrería—a rich tradition of equestrian skill practiced in the U.S. Southwest and beyond, and rooted in Mexican heritage and culture.

The dress is featured in the Girlhood (It’s complicated) exhibition, currently touring the country. Developed by the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), the exhibition explores unexpected stories of American girlhood.

Girlhood’s next stop is at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, Minn., where it runs from Aug. 31, 2024, to March 16, 2025.

Acquisition of this ensemble received federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the National Museum of the American Latino.

The Girlhood (It’s complicated) exhibition received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

As you take a closer look, consider the following:

  1. In escaramuza (or “skirmish”) riding competitions, girls and young women ride sidesaddle, taking their horses through a series of choreographed maneuvers set to music.
  2. Girls competing in escaramuzas wear traditional outfits inspired by the Adelitas, women who fought in the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920).
  3. Riders’ skirts must cover the horses’ haunches while allowing each competitor to maneuver at high speed.
  4. Escaramuzas started in the 1950s but became recognized as girls-only competitive events in 1992.

Published Fall 2023 in IMPACT Vol. 10. No 1

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