'Vaqueros' & Cowboys: A Match Made in Texas

Posted: Apr 22 2014

-By Zee Diaz

Growing up, I really didn’t know the difference between cowboys. I mean, they’re all the same right?

My grandpa wore cowboy boots and drove a Chevy pickup truck in San Antonio, where he was born and raised. He was a real character, and I will never forget the brown cowboy boots he wore, as well as the cowboy hat shaped straw hat. As I grew older, I realized he was a true to life cross between a Mexican ‘vaquero’ and a Texas cowboy. He was after all American but with Mexican-American roots.

Cowboys and 'Vaqueros'
Cowboys aka ‘vaqueros’ (Hispanic cowboys), have long played a role in not just Texan but also Mexican culture, and in my grandfather, like for many Hispanics in the U.S., it was a melded role. Part vaquero, and part Texan, but oh so definitely very cowboy. 

'Vaqueros' in History
Did you know ‘vaqueros’ appear in history as early as the 1500s? And the ‘vaquero’ numbers thrived after that for hundreds of years. So much so, in the late 1800s, 1 out of every 3 cowboys was Mexican. Up until the early part of the 20th century, the higher class cowboys were called ‘caballeros’ and not ‘vaqueros’. ‘Caballero’ is still used commonly in Spanish today, and the meaning has morphed into a common usage of signifying ‘gentleman’.

They Still Exist: The ‘Vaqueros’
It’s quite interesting, as even now the age of the internet and technological advances - well you can still spot the Mexican or Hispanic vaquero in major cities around the U.S. When visiting major metropolitan cities such as DC, Houston, Dallas, and Tampa, just visit certain stores, bars or areas of town, and you’ll run into plenty of them. Every time I spot a ‘vaquero’, I’m instantly reminded of those days growing up, and my grandfather.

A New Fashion
One thing aside though, I’m not sure what he would make of this latest fad going on in Mexico, with the cowboys wearing long pointy boots. I don’t believe that pointy shoe fad has quite caught on in Texas.

Regardless, it’s a unique person, that ‘vaquero’ and Texan cowboy, and yes I’m proud to say one and the same was my granddad.

-Zee Diaz
Zee is a writer for Hispanic.com

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