November 27, 2002

Fiesta de los Californios - Vaqueros Days

In all the world California has always been the home to a respected breed of horsemen. When the Spanish first arrived in California they came there on the back of a horse, and with them, came all their gear on the backs of mules. To settle this unknown region, everything they needed for life had to come with them, including a large herd of cattle, driven along by the presidio soldiers commonly called the Soldados de Cuero, or the leather jacket soldier, as the name implies they wore a leather jacket, actually a vest of seven layers of deerskin, to protect them from the arrows of Indians. These were the horsemen of the Californios, who developed the culture that became so romanticized before the invasion of the gold rush.

In December, this year the 7th and 8th, in the small town of Descanso we pay tribute to this heritage. Music, cowboy poetry, horsemanship demonstrations, ranch roping competitions and team cattle sorting along with people dressed in appropriate attire of the day make the celebration as festive as we can make it. This is our tenth year and plans to be better than ever. The location is the original, in the meadow on the Merigan ranch which is in the center of the small village of Descanso. From Interstate 8 follow the signs for two miles into the town. We start at 8:00 in the morning each day with the roping competition and have continual activities throughout each day until sunset and darkness befall us. The admission is $7 and the kids are free. We have no parking fee and plenty of room for one and all.

Inside the big tents you will find many fine vendors with unusual handcrafted items for sale. Stuff for your home, horse and haberdashery will be available in time for the shopping season. It is our intent to include artisans and craftsmen of discreet excellence, not imported Pakistani plunder.

In the spirit of the California, many of the participants are true to their heritage, living a similar life style on ranches and Indian reservations in Baja California, we are pleased to present as much of the authentic people as we can muster up. If you are of such heritage please join us and tell your friends.

At noon each day we will have a barbeque in the spirit of early California accompanied with musicians of unequalled excellence for your listening pleasure. Groups from all backgrounds participate throughout each day, we especially have the Los Californios who present songs from the Spanish era. This music will bring you to patio of a hacienda with the courtesy of the Don and his rancho.

If your interests are improving your horsemanship skills or maybe you think you would like to become familiar with horses be sure to arrive early, throughout the day will be viewing presentations from such great horsemen as Leslie Desmond, Jerry Tindell, Pat Puckett and Len Judd, as if all goes well we are having a special guest from Perris, California, a true California horseman, Señor Jimmy Flores will show us more about using the hackamore in the traditional style of the Californio. We are hoping to be lucky enough to have Charo trick roping artist Tony Muñoz come and jump through a loop or two. A real crowd pleaser. As you can see we are attempting to have more than you can see in two days, we hope that you too will join us for a visit to what is available of early California and our Great Ranching Heritage.

Our elaboration on the name Vaquero Days to Fiesta de los Californios is to portray and include the multicultural aspect of the Spanish Era in pre gold rush California. Although a Mexican province after 1821 California was unique to itself, a blending of the many cultures, from those who are the “first to come.” They came from Spain and various countries of Europe as well as South America, China, Japan as well as Malaysia and the United States, wherever trade ships were blown here from, California really was melted pot of people from most parts of the world, and that is what we celebrate, humanity as it was in California prior to the gold rush, in the pasture paradise of what was called the Halcyon Days of California.

We invite you to forget about the troubles of our era for a while, and come in with your best outfit, whatever that may be, and celebrate horse, home and humanity and share with each other whatever it is that you enjoy about life, and pay tribute to the one who created it all.

La Fiesta de los Californios will be held on Saturday and Sunday, December 7th and 8th from 8:00 to 5:00 in Descanso, California. For more information visit:

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