TEXCOCO, Mexico (AP) — The multi-colored lights of the mechanical rides cast a pastel glow on the evening sky, three children pose on the back of a Brahman bull, and a tuba blasts a Norteno beat as thousands of people enjoy the annual spring fair just west of Mexico City.
Now in its 34th year, the International Horse Fair, more commonly known as the Texcoco Fair, is among the most popular gatherings of its kind in the country.
Although it began as a celebration of horses, it now resembles many county or state fairs in Mexico and even the United States, with game booths, traditional foods, beer and musical performances.
In Mexico, these types of fairs date back to Spanish colonial times, and in some smaller communities they are organized around the feast days of Roman Catholic saints. A few, like the one in Texcoco, include major musical acts like Alfredo Rios, or "El Komander," one of the best known singers of the "Altered Movement" genre whose lyrics frequently focus on shootouts, killings and guns.
On any given day of the monthlong fair, visitors can listen to 30 different musical groups like the popular Banda MS and Calibre 50 while having one, two or more drinks. Sometimes the trumpets and tubas of the brassy groups clash with each other as the play songs for about $15 each while couples dance with their arms tightly wound around each other.
Elsewhere on the fairgrounds, men crowd a dirt ring, known as a "palenque," for a cockfight. The practice is legal in Mexico but betting on such fights is allowed only at fairs like the one in Texcoco and at approved cockfighting centers.
Along the midway, roasted goat is displayed behind a glass window, and beer is poured into large paper cups rimmed with salt, lemon and chili pepper for a popular drink known as a michelada.
Men try to win knockoff Hello Kitty dolls at the shooting booths and young people laugh as they test their ability to withstand an electric shock, challenging each other to hold the handles delivering a powerful current. Two young women arm wrestle. And a little boy in full cowboy regalia rides an equally small mechanical bull.
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