Photo Gallery: Uruguay’s Wild Rodeo

The cowboy lifestyle in South America

Jack Rodolico By Jack Rodolico

The La Fiesta Patria Gaucha comes alive for several days each March in the Uruguayan town of Tacuarembo, 250 miles north of Montevideo. The grand festival celebrates rural traditions and the gaucho, or cowboy, lifestyle. The gauchos are based  in the fertile grasslands of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile, and they come from all over South America to take part in this major cultural event. Festivalgoers enjoy music, dancing, parades, poetry and huge cuts of meat cooked on open-pit barbecues called parrillas. But the main attraction, as with major rodeos in the U.S. and Canada,  is the rodeo itself. Gauchos ride untamed, wild horses — thousands of horses are brought in for the event — often being flung into the air like weightless astronauts. Only these astronauts come back to earth, with a thud!

A gaucho is thrown off a horse during the Patria Gaucha Festival in Tacuarembo, Uruguay, March 8, 2012. (REUTERS/Andres Stapff)

A gaucho watches as others ride untamed horses, March 9, 2012. (REUTERS/Andres Stapff)

Gauchos take part in the opening ceremony of the Patria Gaucha Festival in Tacuarembo, Uruguay, March 8, 2012. (REUTERS/Andres Stapff)

A gaucho struggles to stay atop an uncooperative horse, March 9, 2012. (REUTERS/Andres Stapff)

A gaucho barely hangs onto an unbroken horse during the Patria Gaucha Festival in Tacuarembo, Uruguay, March 10, 2012. (REUTERS/Andres Stapff)

People carry a gaucho off the field after he was thrown by a horse, March 8, 2012. (REUTERS/Andres Stapff)

Gauchos race into a field with untamed horses, March 8, 2012. (REUTERS/Andres Stapff)

Gauchos chat during the Patria Gaucha Festival in Tacuarembo, Uruguay, March 9, 2012. (REUTERS/Andres Stapff)

A cow carcass hangs as gauchos prepare dinner during the Patria Gaucha Festival in Tacuarembo, March 8, 2012. The festival celebrates Uruguay’s rural traditions and country life. (REUTERS/Andres Stapff)