In mid- to late March, visitors swarm Rancagua  for the Campeonato Nacional de Rodeo (national rodeo championships) at the Medialuna de Rancagua (Av. España and Germán Ibarra); the rodeo ring holds up to 12,000 spectators.
Rancagua  is the capital of Chilean rodeo, drawing thousands of spectators to the national festival in March. In small settlements along the Carretera Austral, the rodeo probably comes closest to its historic roots.
Less celebrated than the Argentine gaucho, the Chilean huaso resembles his trans-Andean counterpart in many ways, but differs dramatically in others. Both, of course, are horsemen, but the gaucho arose from a background of fierce independence on the Pampas, while the subservient huaso originated on the landed estates that dominated economic and social life in colonial and republican Chile.
Though the huaso was a hired hand or even a peon attached to the property, on Sundays he and his colleagues could blow off steam in racing their horses, betting, and drinking. As the spontaneous rodeo grew too raucous, though, it drew the disapproval of landowners, who responded by organizing competitions that, over time, became more genteel versions of their huaso origins.
Though Chilean rodeo remains popular, it is now, according to historian Richard Slatta, a nostalgic exercise that’s “a middle- and upper-class pastime, not a profession” as it has become in North America. Riders wear colorful ponchos, flat-brimmed hats, oversized spurs, and elaborately carved wooden stirrups.
Chilean rodeo’s signature event is the atajada, in which a pair of jinetes (riders) guide and pin a calf or steer to the padded wall of the medialuna, the semicircular rodeo ring. Since it’s harder to control the steer by the body than the head — the chest is best — the horsemen get more points for this. They lose points if the steer strikes any unpadded part of the wall, or escapes between the horses.
There are no cash prizes, though the event ends by acknowledging the champions and other riders with wine and empanadas. Compared to Canada, the United States, and even Mexico, Chilean rodeo is truly machista — women prepare and serve food, dress in costume, and dance the traditional cueca with the men, but they do not ride.
November 1’s Encuentro Criollo folkore festival also draws crowds.