Brazil: Barretos Rodeo

By Alistar Crawford

I live in the quiet, what you would call backwater, Barretos SP. It is a city about 500 km inland in the north of the state of São Paulo on the border with Minas Gerais. Approximately 120,000 people live here which, as anyone will tell you is small in Brazil.

Being from Ireland it wasnt really too hard to blend into country living when I first came here in 2001. I come from the South of Ireland from a small holiday village called Tramore set on 6 miles of Sandy beach. Growing up in a town with 8000 people living there and an economy based around farming, fishing and beach holidays it didnt come as a shock to come to another small town on the other side of the world. In fact I was shocked at how big it was to be honest.

Barretos is a town that is steeped in the Brazilian cattle industry. At one time it was the centre of the trade for cattle to São Paulo. Being at the end of the train line it was the central point of embarkation for cattle to São Paulo. Thus in the 30&rsquot;s an English group built the biggest factory in South America with capacity to slaughter 2000 animals a day (sorry you animal lovers) and thus commenced the concentration of the cattle industry in the town of Barretos. The towns various residents became rich from various business including farming, trucking and supplying materials. To this day the town has stayed small but has become a major centre for farm owners who have land and cattle all over Brazil.

During this time when Barretos was literally the end of the line for the train to São Paulo the Peao or Cowboys organized themselves to have a competition while they waited for the train to load their cattle. This was the start of the rodeo which today makes the town famous.

Every August for 10 days the town becomes the centre of Brazilian cowboy culture for the second biggest rodeo in the World outside of Fort Worth Texas. Up to a million people come to the town from all over the world to party during the Festa do Peão de Boiadeiro de Barretos”. Cowboys and cowgirls from all over Brazil come to Barretos to sing, dance, drink, eat and of course love. Oh and yes watch the international rodeo festival with participants from Brazil, Mexico, USA, Canada and Australia.

Organizers say there has been a huge increase in rodeos all over Brazil. There are now 1,800 rodeos across the country each year, and more than 10,000 professional riders regularly participate in traditional events such as penning, bulldogging, and the blue-ribbon event, bull-riding.Brazilians are particularly adept at the latter, a brutal competition in which cowboys fight to cling to the back of a bucking 3/4-ton bull for at least eight seconds. One of the sport&rsquot;s biggest stars is Adriano Moraes, who in 1994 became one of only four men in history to go eight seconds on 10 consecutive bulls.

The heroic deeds of bull riders, however, are not the only reasons people travel for hundreds of miles to take in the atmosphere at Barretos. What goes on before and after the broncos buck is a key factor in setting Barretos’ apart from the more traditional rodeos in North American cities like Houston or Las Vegas.

Shows from famous artists from all over Brazil and the world with Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, A-Ha, Gloria Gaynor and Ivete Sangalo have been played here. This year there was rumor in the town that Ricky Martin would play on the last weekend of the festival (still not confirmed). Also Brazil’s sertanejo culture comes to the fore with artists playing their hearts out in a stadium shaped like a horse shoe.

This year’s festival is the 50th year and will run for 17 days over three weekends. With the current interest caused from the novela being shown on Globo at the moment, America, this years festival will be a sell-out.

I would advise anyone who wants to see this peculiarality of Brazilian culture they should start looking now for hotels, camp sites, pousadas and Chcaras to stay in as the space is at a premium.

Tickets are reasonable and run at about R$ 170 for two days at the time of the festival but there is all sorts of family passes and discounts for groups as well. Information can be got at www.independentes.com.br the organization of cowboys that organize this festival for the last 50 years.

How did a young Irish guy end up working and living in this backwater well that’s another story but let’s just say I cam here in 2001 to learn Portuguese and work with meat factories something we are not short if in Ireland too. The problem was I didn’t want to leave. So after learning Portuguese I went back to Ireland and bought my return ticket for the August “Festa do Peão de Boiadeiro de Barretos”. There I partied for 10 days and met my wife. After another year and half of back and forth to Brazil we married and I came to live and work here.

All I can say is you can’t beat living in the country in Brazil if you like the quiet life without any traffic and crime, although every now and again I have to go back to the real world in São Paulo for a pint of Guinness and to watch football or Rugby from home.”