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Annual Guadalajara livestock fair a fecund onslaught for the senses

Guadalajara’s Expo Ganadero, an annual livestock fair and competition running from October 5 to November 2, is for the first-time attendee a bewildering overload of several of the cardinal senses.

First and foremost is smell: the Aegean stables have nothing on the effluvia that is constantly being emitted by the fair’s furry, feathered or otherwise clad captive organisms.

Sound came in second, with the grunt and lo of cattle, blaring banda music and yowling children creating a numbing sonic atmosphere.

Taking the bronze was sight; everywhere one looked was something freshly bizarre to delight the eye, be it a giant, lumpy bovine, miniature pig, blond pony with a braided mane, or a small penitentiary’s worth of puppies looking despairingly bored in tiny cages.

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Hosting the event every year is the Union Ganadero Regional de Jalisco, an agriculture/livestock organization housed in a circular three-story administrative building which looks over a large rectangular property containing a large bull ring with a red dirt floor, a similarly-floored but smaller square arena, roads lined with food and retail stalls, open air restaurants - and several acres of stockades housing livestock.

The day I decided to take the 45-minute bus ride from downtown Guadalajara to the Union’s Tlaquepaque location on the GDL metropolitan area’s southeast side, the livestock de jour was the zebu, a beautiful breed of Indian bovine whose defining characteristic is a large hump located a couple of feet behind its huge head.

They are an impressive sight, the zebus. Equally impressive is the prodigious results of their constant snacking; I came away a few hours later with a small souvenir of said result, only becoming aware of its presence halfway home, when a fellow bus passenger was observed sniffing the air and looking about in puzzlement, until her gaze settled with disgusted finality on my right shoe.

Its talent at producing nose-wrinkling excrement notwithstanding, the noble zebu is a magnificent thing to look at, and its international pedigree is notable.

Guadalupe Yan, an animal trainer from Tenosique, Tabasco in the south of Mexico near the Guatemalan border, broke down the creature’s basic genealogy, punctuating his explication of the zebu family tree with slaps of his palm against the massive flank of a nearby member of said family, who reacted by rolling its eyes with a snort while shifting its massive bulk over relatively slender forelegs.

“These here are Gir,” said Yan, gesturing down the stockade at some 25 animals placidly chewing their cud. “It’s a breed of cattle from India by way of Brasil. They brought them over from India and mixed them with other breeds, resulting in this animal. They’re used primarily for their milk, while the larger Brahma breed is more often used for meat.”

Yan’s charges were only two-months-old, hard to believe given their considerable size until he pointed out two gargantuan breeds on the other side of the stockade from where we stood.

“Over there,” explained Yan, “we have the Sardo negro and Guzerat. The Guzerat is for milk and the Sardo Negro mainly for meat. These animals come from all over: Chiapas, Vera Cruz, Yucatan, Monterrey, and, of course, Tabasco.”

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For those of us for whom bovinophilia isn’t or has never been a governing influence or a habitual source of diversion, the Expo Ganadero giveth of a whole crayon box full of entertainments and drinking/dining options. Fittingly, parrilladas (grills) are the culinary order of the day, with multiple options scattered around the grounds. Casa de la Salsa, located right across from several stockades full of the day’s guest of honor, made a nice, bloody arrachera (flank steak), plucked sizzling hot from the grill and plopped on a plate heaped with golden, crunchy french fries.

This sanguinary afternoon repast was also accompanied by both the sight of giant zebus being towed past by their long-suffering handlers and the smell of what one presumes was their excrement - an all-encompassing beef experience.

Gazing from the shadows of the restaurant’s canvas roof out onto a dusty, rather sparse afternoon thoroughfare, I wondered aloud when things would likely pick up.

“This place will be full in a couple of hours,” answered Abigail Garcia, a pleasant local woman with a crooked grin, and the waitress attending my luncheon.

“Games, horses, clowns…pig races. Bands, too. People will be hanging around till about 2 a.m,” she drawled sleepily before wandering back to her preferred perch next to the grill and its two attendees.

In fact, a clown show was already in progress at the aforementioned square corral, but it, too, was barely attended; one small boy on the bleachers gazed in rapt attention from between his father’s legs at the two game performers raising a small cloud of red dust on the corral floor, their plucky enthusiasm belying the passing public’s utter indifference.

. . . . . .

But remember, the Expo Ganadero is fundamentally a trade show, not just an excuse to raise hell and entertain children not yet beaten into dismissive, slack-jawed jadedness by iPads and smartphones. Men stood talking in groups while staring thoughtfully at massive, listless ruminants, swapping stories, geeking out on zoological minutia and, presumably, making deals.

And yes, this was a man’s world. The few women in attendance were wives and mothers, keeping their charges’ soft fontanelles away from the sharp hooves of giant, ornery cash cows.

The Expo grounds would indeed fill up as the afternoon darkened into dusk. Man cannot feed his spirit on commerce alone; he must have beer, tequila, {banda}, sad clowns and tragic pig races. All are in the offing on the Expo docket, in addition to dust-choked rodeos (adult and child), lucha libre, folkloric dancing, and much more.

The zebu is a magnificent creature, even while in captivity and servitude, but its run at the Expo ends this Sunday, October 15, to be replaced from October 17 to 22 by the Limousin breed from France. And nudging the Limousin from the spotlight October 24 to November 2 will be the Brangus breed, a formidable, jet black cross between the Brahma and Angus varieties.

Entry is 45 pesos for adults, 15 for children ages 6-12 and 20 for seniors. A ticket gives the buyer access to all of the expositions varied, at times fecund riches, in addition to participation in various competitions. The Union Ganadero Regional de Jalisco is located on Calzada Huascato and Calle Amacueca, El Alamo, Tlaquepaque, near a smoggy no-man’s-land of interconnecting arterials. Suggested paraphernalia to be sported while on the Expo grounds are a clothes pin and a stout pair of Wellingtons.

To view the article on the Guadalajara Reporter website, click here.

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