Traditional horse dances

Charro Jerry Diaz performs with wife, Staci, and son, Nicolas, 12. Traditional horse dances date to the 17th century.

Gerardo “Jerry” Diaz, a fourth generation Mexican horseman, remembers bringing his Charro show to Belton when the Bell County Expo Center opened almost 30 years ago.

He returns this weekend with his wife, Staci, and 12-year-old son, Nicolas, performing by his side for the annual PRCA Rodeo..

“It’s special to come back with my family to share the beautiful Charro tradition with Bell County,” Diaz said.

And what a show it will be.

At 7 p.m. Friday, young Nicolas will perform an act with a dancing horse and bow and arrow. His mother will ride side-sadle in a flowing gown or Charro regalia Saturday and Sunday nights in the spotlight of colorful dance and pageantry. The Diaz family will perform rope tricks with their dancing horses all three nights of the rodeo, Friday through Sunday.

“Get ready for a beautiful show of romance, dance and roping skill on horseback like no other in Bell County, as classy as a show on Broadway,” said Charlie Throckmorton, PRCA announcer for three decades.

Staci Diaz, who has been performing on horses since she was about 5 years old, said she is proud to share the tradition of dancing horses with Central Texas audiences. Her son has been performing since he was just a toddler.

“It’s a tradition that has been lost to a new generation of kids who don’t know what Charro is,” she said. “We’re excited to share the art with our audiences.”

Jerry Diaz has been to the Olympics and performed for seven world leaders. He said his father, who passed away last year at age 96, was one of the first Charro performers in the United States who also traveled with Barnum and Bailey, trained horses for four presidents and performed movie stunts.

“We celebrate the art of the horse and the history of the Vaquero, the cowboy,” he said.

A Charro (pronounced Cha ‘ro) is a skilled Mexican horseman whose origins date back to the 17th century. The charro, who developed customs, dress, music and equestrian skills later borrowed by the American cowboy, dress in traditional costume and are skilled in horsemanship, bull riding, horse and steer roping and trick roping.

The Diaz family lives in New Braunfels, where they operate Three Mile Creek Ranch, a 50-acre horse operation that hosts clinics throughout the year.

The Charro performances are a highlight of the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce 92nd Annual 4th of July Celebration and PRCA Rodeo.

Other new acts feature barrel man Mark Swingler. Children ages 8 and under will parade stick horses around the arena Sunday.

“There’s a lot of tradition with 92 years of rodeo,” said rodeo manager Keith Smith.”We are keeping it alive and modern.”