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The History of the Rupununi Rancher’s Rodeo – by Denise Case D’Aguiar

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First Published on 27th of February, 2021 by Patrick Carpen.

Written by- Denise Case D’Aguiar. Photos by Amanda Richards.

Last updated: November 7, 2023 at 20:45 pm

Every year, the Rupununians hold a Rodeo show, and thousands of tourists flock from around the world to watch. But have you ever wondered how this all started? Here is the story.

Those who live or have lived on a ranch would know that for safe cattle handling, a cowboy, or vaquero must be well trained and skilled for the task. Understanding the behaviors of these animals is very important. A cowboy has to be instinctive and sense when the animals are hungry, irritated, happy, distressed, or ill, just the way a mother understands an infant.

During the dry season, there is a cattle round-up for a general check-up: head-counts, treating wounds, branding, milking, breaking in, and castrating calves.

Breaking in is the process by which a horse is being tamed. In so doing, the animal feels discomfort but not severe anxiety.

How this is done:

Usually, the horse is being handled by two cowboys. They are very calm in their approach as they lightly stroke the horse’s back to put him at ease before blindfolding him with a black cloth. At most times, it takes more than just one attempt before getting this done. Then, as one cowboy controls the horse, the other calmly gets on its back and takes off the blindfold. The horse gets irritated and takes off bucking and twerking until the rider falls off. When the horse is calm again, the breaking-in process is repeated until the horse gets used to it.

The Rupununi Rodeo in Guyana, which is a public exhibition of cowboy skills derived from the working practices of cattle herding, was originated in the 1960s at Pirara ranch. It was during those roundups that the Rupununi ranchers began competing to determine who had the best racehorses, the best breed of cattle, and so on. It was a great feeling of accomplishment amongst the ranchers to conquer such daunting challenges. So, as time went by, these small competitions became the biggest attraction in the region and is now a part of the Rupununi culture.

This entertainment, which is the most anticipated event of the year, is held on the Easter weekend each year and features cattle roping, bareback and saddle bronco, milking a wild cow, horse racing, tug-o-war, and much more.

The Rodeo Committee, which is a division of the Livestock Producers Association (RLPA), organizes the Rodeo and depends on the support and contributions of mainly the ranchers, companies, and individual sponsors in Guyana.

A Rodeo Queen Pageant is held on Rodeo Eve featuring beauties from the Rupununi and our neighboring country, Brazil. There are also Country and Western dance groups for opening presentations, and bands from Georgetown, the Rupununi, and Brazil to take you into the wee hours of the morning as you dance to the different rhythms of the night. There is also a fun park with a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, and many more games for adults and kids to enjoy.

The villagers of the Central, North, and South Rupununi also take the opportunity at this time of the year to portray their talents by nicely setting up their stalls to sell their homemade products such as cassareep, coconut oil, cassava bread, farine, art and craft, and much more.

Well-prepared hot meals are also sold at the Rodeo ground throughout the event. With the massive influx of tourists (Guyanese, Americans, Canadians, Brazilians, Venezuelans) in the region, hotels, guest houses, and the tourist resort management make the necessary preparations to take advantage of this opportune time. And just in case you had made no hotel arrangements prior to traveling, it is advisable to take sleeping tents. The house lots at Lethem are big and some people rent a part of it to those who have been locked out.

There are also two nearby waterfalls, the Moco Moco and the Kumu, which are approximately fourteen miles out of central Lethem and just ideal for a cool-off from the hot climate which is usually intense just before the rainy season that begins on the April month-end.

On Easter Mondays (the day when most visitors are returning home), some Brazilians and Guyanese get together for a beach party on the Takatu River sand-bank. At that time of the year, certain parts of the Takutu River are dry and you can walk straight over to Brazil. However, with the advent of the Takutu River Bridge, these crossing points are now rarely used.

Undoubtedly, the Easter Weekend is the best time of the year to connect with the Rupununi culture and to have an amazing view of the landscape in all its splendor.

Welcome to “the wild side!” ?

About the Author

Denise Case D’Aguiar was born on the Essequibo Coast of Guyana, South America. She later moved to the Rupununi Savannahs and then to Brazil where she took up a career in teaching English to Brazilians.

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