Last month we went to the dusty city of Matehuala, Mexico, in the northern state of San Luís Potosí on the high plateau of the Huasteca Potosina, in search of the pointiest long-toed cowboy boots ever made. Over the past year, the botas vaqueras exóticas phenomenon has overrun the rodeo dance floors and clubs of this area, much to the dissatisfaction of Mexicans who critique the fashions of their countrymen on hotly trafficked style blogs.
But we were told we were too late, that the wrongly maligned wearers of what are by far the most wondrous footwear we’ve ever seen had been replaced with short, square, "pig-nosed" boots by stubby contrarians.
Martín Hernandez Rodriguez (red shirt), Saul Nicolás Coronado (black shirt), and Gabriel Rodriguez Flores (white shirt) are a dance crew from Buenavista.
We’d seen the occasional report about the exotic pointy-boot trend making its way stateside, spreading into Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and other places where big groups of immigrant Mexicans have taken root, and we expected that the odds were pretty low that the style had phased out of Mexico completely. So we made our way to Mesquit Rodeo and Desierto Light, two cowboy venues in Matehuala, where party promoters host dance-offs to music known as tribal guarachero. Essentially, this sound is a combination of thumpy house music, ancient Hispanic chants and flute work, and Colombian dance songs known as cumbia.
Los Hermanos’ boots.
Custom glitter boots from Zaragoza de Solís.
Custom boots made for the crew Los Parranderos.
In Matehuala, guarachero has become an unlikely style of music where a bunch of people who in theory should not get along come together and get along. It’s also the music preferred by the men and boys in the long and pointed boots.
Participants in these dance contests spend the days and weeks prior choreographing intricate footwork routines and fabricating their own outfits with cheap paint and fabric. The grand prize, beyond the enthusiastic crowd’s affection, is either a bottle of whiskey or a few bucks.
A separate contest, we were pleased to discover, is held for the longest, most ornate and pointed boots, which are also spotlighted in public song-and-dance programs. The exotic boots are made by modifying boring normal ones with materials bought in local hardware and craft stores. The fanciest are adorned with LED lights or mirrors, while others incorporate paint and every color of sequins. They all get the glitter treatment no matter what. It was explained to us that some boots have measured upward of five feet in length.
So maybe the rumor that people were bored of these boots was nothing more than hateful slander by jealous losers with no long boots of their own.
Gustavo, 11, and Carlos Mendoza, 15, are known as Los Hermanos. They took second place in the dance contest finals.
"When people see someone walking with pointy boots," he said, "they say, ‘No way, that guy is insane! Why do you wear those boots?’ But I say that everyone wears his own style, right?"
Minri introduced us to a few others from his crew. There was Francisco the Cell Phone Guy, a group called Los Pachangueros, some kids from Guadalupe, and a couple guys called Los Carnales, from the ranch of San Francisco. They were all sporting pointy boots.
We also met a different Francisco, an 18-year-old kid who, together with his wife, sells prepaid phone cards and cases for mobile phones in a tiny store in a market nearby. Usually he can be found strolling around proudly downtown wearing aqua-colored skinny jeans and spectacular boots decorated with red beads. They’re at least a couple feet in length, maybe longer.
Besides making his own boots, Francisco also crafts boots that he puts up for sale—he’s created more than 100 pairs to date, by his estimation. He’s even seen his creations in the US in pictures on websites.
We asked him what he thought about the dustup between pro- and anti-pointy-boot factions.
"Everyone does his own thing,” he said. “To me, these are the best boots—that’s it. I like these very much, and I dance with them. I don’t care what people think. As long as I like it, I don’t give a damn. That’s what I think."
Luis Angel Castillo Sierra from Buenavista.
Our favorite pair of glitter boots from Zaragoza de Solís.
Martín Cerda Cruz, of the Barrio Apache Hyphy crew.
Jesús Briones, from Zaragoza de Solís, is another member of the Barrio Apache Hyphy crew.