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Arts & Culture

Renowned Brass Band And Brazen Bulls Make A Stop In The Treasure Valley

Two of Mexico's cultural titans, La Banda El Recodo de Cruz Lizarraga and Memo Ocampo and his legendary bulls made a recent stop in the Treasure Valley to put on a Jaripeo.

A Jaripeo is a celebration of bull riding, dancing and big bold brass music. Latinos from Idaho, Oregon and even beyond came to Malheur County Fairgrounds recently to dance and watch bull riding by some of Mexico’s top performers.

For some people it’s the first time they’ve been out since COVID-19 took hold of the country.

Fans traveled from as far away as Utah and Nebraska to Ontario, Oregon — a town mostly known in the region for its cannabis shops, surrounded by large farms. Some as young as a few months olds were still in their baptismal whites.

People crowded around the arena to watch the Jinetes, the bull riders, on the renowned livestock of Mexican breeder Memo Ocampo.

Dust kicked up from all the dancing to the equally famous music of Banda El Recodo. Even trained horses trotted and kicked to the music.

Ocampo’s livestock and Banda El Recodo are huge draws in Mexico, often playing in major cities. Here they played in what seemed like the middle of nowhere — a small town with a large Latino population. The acts were surrounded by swarms of fans.

Band leader Poncho Lizarraga is still cautious — pulling his mask down to smile for the occasional photo with a fan and while he was on stage. He has a reason to be cautious: His band and family members had been sick with COVID-19.

“Thanks be to God we ran with luck. Those of us that got sick, including me, we had the opportunity to come out in front of this sickness that was so hard and difficult,” said Lizzarraga.

Now, after a year of drive-in concerts and live streams, this tour with Ocampo is a return to form.

"This is something that fills us with so much emotion,” said Lizzarraga. “So much joy, so much satisfaction, and great hope that soon we’ll be returning to a new normal, so that we continue returning to the stage.”

Jaripeos, go way back — the bull riding on its own began before the Spanish conquest of the Americas. Since then it’s morphed into something uniquely Mexican. The other half, Banda Music, comes from a mix of marching music, infused with polka and introduced by German migrants, creating a unique sound that's widely enjoyed throughout the entire American continent.

“It’s part of the culture of ours, from Mexico,” said Gustavo Acosta, a radio DJ in the Treasure Valley. “It’s part of the traditions of the local fairs.”

His station ran promotions leading up to the show. To Acosta, this event was a turning point. There were shows like this during the pandemic, but never with this many people, he said.

Summertime is the season for Jaripeos.

“It’s like … now, now the whole world who wanted to come out, came out without fear,” Acosta said.

As people slowly start to ease out of homes, Banda El Recodo with Memo Ocampo and his bulls will continue to tour across the U.S. and Mexico.

Follow Gustavo on Instagram @gus.chavo

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio News

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