What Influence Did Mexico Have On The Image Of The U.S. Cowboy?


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Patricia Devereux Profile
Even though the premier image of the U.S. West is the cowboy, the profession was not homegrown.  Up until the Mexican War of 1846-48, Mexico governed what are now the western states of California, Nevada, and Utah, and parts of Texas, New Mexico, Wyoming, Arizona, and Colorado.  Before Mexico's independence, one of the chief exports to its colonizer, Spain, was hides and tallow from cattle. This sparked the development of "cowboy" culture, which was itself an outgrowth of Spanish cattle-management practices.  Most of the terms used in U.S. Ranches have Spanish origins. The most obvious is "buckeroo" -- slang for cowboy -- which is a bastardization of "vaquero," the Mexican word for cow handler.  "Lariats" of braided leather for lassoing are Mexican, as are the iconic cowboy hat, which is commonly seen in Indian villages in Central America. Chaps (leather over-pants) are Mexican in origin.  The Spanish words "rodeo," for "rodear," to round up of cattle; "remuda," a place for spare horses or pack animals; and "mochila," leather saddle bags, are part of U.S. Cowboy lore.  The western handcraft traditions of silversmith for horse tack and leatherwork of saddles and bridles are Mexican in origin.  Finally, the jangly, rollicking rhythms and ballad themes of traditional cowboy songs are part of the norteno music style of Northern Mexico. 

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