Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa's Blog

Ranches of Mexico Spurred Traditions that Live on in Cattle Industry

By Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa, Rancher

While many people associate traditional Mexican industry with such items as pottery and silver, the rancher in fact takes the credit for most of the growth of the nation. The fertile land and abundance of water, as well as its temperate climate, made Mexico the first great ranching state of the New World. Soldiers and missionaries brought horses to Mexico in the 1500s, which allowed Mexican ranchers to travel and carry supplies needed to settle the vast stretches of land more easily. Cattlemen, who enjoyed a long history of success in Spain, shipped their hardiest and most prized breeds of cattle to Mexico, where the cattle grazed on thousands of acres of land. When grass or water was exhausted in one area, the ranchers simply moved their herds to greener pastures, as early Mexico had no fences and cattle were allowed to roam freely across unclaimed land and land grants.

During Spanish colonial days, missions and forts served as the mainstay of Mexican society. Forts housed soldiers that were crucial not only to defending settlers from attack but to also in protecting the interests of Spain against other colonial powers that might try to take the valuable land. In addition, soldiers accompanied Spanish travelers such as missionaries, cartographers, and the conquistadors who sought gold and other treasures fabled to exist in Mexico.

As time passed, however, cattlemen moved in droves into Mexico. Attracted by the prospect of large land grants, they established ranches of sizes that could not have been imagined in Spain. In addition, many ranchers became empresarios, land managers responsible for bringing new settlers to the region and thereby fortifying the Spanish grip on the country. These settlers received large tracts of land that allowed them to take up ranching. These homesteads and ranches, however, proved vulnerable to raids by native populations, and many people opted to live in towns near military outposts for protection. Because their cattle needed to be tended, the Mexican tradition of the vaquero, which ultimately inspired the American cowboy and the South American charros, became prevalent during this time. These skilled cattlemen and riders managed the daily care of the animals and moved them adeptly to new grazing lands and later to market.

About the Author: Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa is a rancher in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. Skilled in breeding cattle with select genetic lines, Sr. Guerrero is one of the few cattlemen in Mexico to breed the Elite Charolais type of cattle.