The smell of damp soil lingered in the air. Carne asada sizzled in large oiled skillets and small lightbulbs faintly lit up handmade clay figurines, woven handbags and western hats. Beyond the food and merchandise stands, different Mexican folk songs could be heard blaring from the speakers of several full-size pickup trucks pulling horse trailers. And, just as varied as the song choices were the messages plastered in the back windows of the vehicles. “Nochistlán, Zacatecas,” one read. “Calijano Ranch” was another.
It was the second night of a three-day event to honor the Gold Rush-era legendary folk hero — or notorious bandit, depending on who you asked — Joaquín Murrieta.
The annual horse ride that had started Friday morning more than 60 miles away from Madera, in Cantua Creek, had reached its final rest stop at Lienzo Charros Unidos on Avenue 17 near Madera Municipal Airport, Saturday. Men donning large sombreros gathered to chat and drink. Every other song that hit home would spur a loud ‘grito’ or cry from one of them. On the large concrete dance floor, a few couples spinned.
“I feel really good about it,” said Nancy Enriquez, the treasurer of the board of directors for The Joaquin Murrieta Riders. She said about 15 families started the ride in Cantua Creek and riders joined throughout the way, reaching a recordbreaking 150 by the time they came into town...