Borja Cardelús: A providential change

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The docks of the port of Cádiz are crowded with people and belongings. Just a year ago the American continent was discovered, and it urges the Catholic Monarchs to make effective possession over the new land, transferring the human and material ingredients that make the The new World an extension of Spain itself.

The Admiral of the Ocean Sea, a new discoverer of America, he personally supervises the display of the colonizing baggage, because everything has to be chosen: people with well-known trades, without a shadow of delinquency, and selected goods, seeds, and cattle to successfully take root in the New World.

Among what is exhibited in the magazine before the scrutinizing gaze of Columbus, ten horses and ten mares of superb plant of Hispanic-Arab origin, to which the Admiral grants his immediate approval, because they are destined to start the horse herd of America. And that is how things remain, until a few days later the effective shipment of all the colonizing massacre takes place.

But an event occurs, apparently trivial, but which is going to be of crucial importance in the rural history of the Americas. COlón falls ill the day the horses are shipped, and the rogue dealers take advantage of it to replace the merchandise: they remove the lucid steeds from the boast and instead embark specimens of base plant, even rough ones, and when Columbus verifies the scam it is late: the ships are already sailing towards the Americas and there is no possible return. History will record that some “matalones” left for the New World, that is, pencos of very poor quality.

The horses of the marsh multiplied, and they were the ones that spread across the vast American plains

But it was not true. Yes it was the fact of the change, not that the embarked horses were matalones. The dealers had obtained them at a much tighter price in the nearby Guadalquivir marshes, and they were specimens of Retuerta’s race, who roamed free and wild through the Betic marshes.

And it turned out that these horses were the most appropriate for the American lands. They were scarce, modest, and hardened in the cycles of water and dryness of the marsh, in its cold and heat, all extreme, and they found in America lands very similar to those of origin: the plains of the Orinoco, the The pampas of the south, the steppes of the Andean foothills, the Patagonian moors or the plains of the American West, were open lands, unbalanced, very familiar to the small horses of Retuerta, hard, long-suffering, insurmountable at work, and they had no difficulty in adapt to new landscapes.

The marsh horses multiplied, and were the ones that spread over the extensive American plains and served as mounts to the Argentine gauchos, the Venezuelan llaneros, the Mexican charros, the Chilean huasos or the Patagonian horsemen, and also the cowboys and the Indians of the American West, who so much was lavished on Hollywood cinema. Some of these escaped and returned to their wild condition, becoming Mesteños, the famous “Mustangs.”

For all this, that change was providential, because the graceful horses of the initial show would not have supported the landscape or the American climate, suitable only for the roblizos Marismeño horses that populated the Americas.

Borja Cardelús is the author of ‘América Hispánica’.

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