Hispanic Influence on Cowboy Culture

Mexican Cowboys
Americans can thank Hispanic culture for the cowboy.

They wear tall, wide-brimmed hats. They are experts at riding horses and using a lasso. Can you think of an image more American than the cowboy? Did you know that if it weren’t for Spanish and Mexican ranchers, there would be no cowboys?

September 15th through October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month. It is a time to celebrate Hispanic traditions and culture in America. Let’s look at how Hispanic traditions have influenced the American tradition of the cowboy.

When the Spanish arrived in the Americas, they built ranches in what is now Mexico. They raised cattle and other livestock here. They brought horses from Europe. Mexican cowboys were known as vaqueros because the Spanish word for cow is “vaca.”

As English-speaking settlers moved West, they learned about cattle ranching from the vaqueros. They learned how to rope cattle with a lasso. They also adopted many aspects of their style. This includes the famous cowboy hat. It is also called a “sombrero.” That is the Spanish word for hat.

What Do You Think? Did you learn something new about cowboys? Why do you think it is important to know about different groups that have contributed to American culture?

Photo Credit: Gates Frontiers Fund Colorado Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-DIG-highsm-37156]