Thousands of people enjoy tradition and folklore in Río Mayo during the eagerly awaited celebration for country folk and sheep breeders of the area.
People flocked to the National Shearing Fair in an assortment of ways. In trucks, on horseback and even on bikes they arrived at Río Mayo which welcomed everyone who chose to spend three nights and days outdoors. Most of the workers from nearby estancias or outposts came with their families. Enticed by the smoke from the asadores (spits) and the music over the loudspeakers, we elbowed our way in.
The announcer was moved as he spoke about these country folk: ‘They devote each and every day throughout the year to sheep breeding and shearing. The first settlers’ only capital was their small herds. They traveled to Comodoro Rivadavia once a year to sell their wool and buy supplies. Families lived far from the cities and struggled bravely against the harsh weather and loneliness in search of a future.’
We were also told: ‘Backs bent by endless effort, we faced snow, wind and water; we brought the rams in at precisely the right time, we hoped the newly born lambs would not succumb to late snowfall. We clipped eyes, marked and cut tails and finally it is shearing time. This is the harvest, it is time to be rewarded for our sacrifice throughout the year. This is why we celebrate.’
Three nights and days outdoors
A fascinating world
Our traditions remain intact
Discovering Moves And Shapes
We witnessed guanaco shearing, very similar to that of sheep. However, the thread is used to make really fine clothing.
The sound of hoofs and horseshoes announced the arrival of gaucho groups dressed in their finest, proud to be warmly acknowledged by all. The judges named the National Queen and Miss Fleece, and all the contestants finally relaxed. A new sovereign would reign until the next fair.
We tried the famous Patagonian lamb on several occasions. We would not have missed the chance of tasting this delicious, typical meal for the world. The people cut pieces of meat directly from the spit: a simple way of cooking and a creative way of eating without a plate, all it took was a knife and some bread.
A sound of metal marked the beginning of the shearing contest. Skillful, diligent hands could shear fifty sheep a day with the old blades and more with the newer machine with combs which has improved the quality of the wool and made it safer for the animals. To our surprise, women also take part in the competition and show they are just as competent as the men.
The payadores (folksingers who improvise) provided entertainment with their verses and added enthusiasm to the displays as well as merry making with their typical sense of humor. There was dancing throughout the three days.
Even ‘rookies’ had a go at waving handkerchiefs in the traditional zambas played by local and national renowned artists. We were happy to join the crowd in a typical dance.
The celebration clearly showed that our traditions remain intact and that as long as customs are passed down from generation to generation our values will live on and will be proudly displayed. It was with enthusiasm that Río Mayo celebrated a year of hard rural labor and shared it with its visitors.
Mónica Pons Dirección de Cultura y Turismo de Río Mayo
Contact of the excursion or tour
Municipalidad de Río Mayo
Belgrano 585 (9030) Río Mayo, ChubutTel: +54 2903-420035
See more points of interest in Río Mayo