The Aruban Cabalgata Tradition
Images by Luis Medina and Org. Caballista Arubano
In my 18+ years of living on Aruba, I can say that some of the most unique experiences I have had in my life could only have been possible through the distinct culture offered here. When most people think of Aruba, images of breathtaking beaches and idyllic moments of sipping pina coladas under swaying palms typically come to mind. But Aruba’s heritage and culture offer such a dynamic array of fascinating traditions and pastimes to discover. One of my favorites is the cabalgata tradition.
Aruba’s horse riding culture is an integral thread in the island’s cultural and historical fabric. Horses were first introduced here by the Spanish in the early 1500s, and Aruba was even once a trading post for horses. A descendant of the horses originally introduced to Aruba is the Paso Fino. The name Paso Fino, meaning “fine step,” refers to the smooth gait of this breed that is popular in horse shows and competitions throughout Latin America and islands in the Caribbean like Puerto Rico and Aruba. The horse community here, with numerous ranches dotting the island, is tight-knit, engaging in numerous shows, competitions, and events that bring several generations of riders and enthusiasts together.
One such event is the “cabalgata,” a Latin American tradition of a parade or procession of riders. Cabalgatas are held several times a year at different locations, with horses trailered in from ranches across the island to one designated ranch, allowing riders to form a procession, trotting through neighboring villages. Typically, the group is accompanied by a truck with speakers in the flatbed playing Spanish rancho tunes, and stops are made along the way for refreshments. The procession ends at sundown, usually followed by a barbecue at the host ranch.