A Modern Day Cowboy

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With one eye on the past preserving this unique culture and one on the future by educating visitors, Seudiel Walteros is a true Llanero plainsman, a modern day cowboy.

Words by Julian Fernandez

Seudiel (or ‘Seco’) has no fear crossing a swollen, fast-flowing river on his horse. He writes and sings songs for cattle-driving, he shares the ideals of his fellow townspeople, he has excavated ancient indigenous artefacts from his lands, he guides people through tours of his home and welcomes students to study the forefathers of the region.

Seco’s first home was on the banks of the Guanapalo River. He is one of nine children and surprisingly his father knew nothing of the Llanos.

“He didn’t even ride a horse, and chose instead to walk on foot” Seco remembers.

He was dedicated to farming the land, especially sugar cane, hence why Seco had no problem selling the hundred heads of cattle that he inherited from his parents in order to buy his land he still owns today.

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Seudiel had never any intention to study, he was always fond of horses and Llanero work. His idea was always to be a working man and able to range the plains at his own free will. At the age of twelve, he found his first job in a ‘hato’ (ranch) in Guanapalo. He helped cook for the lady of the hato, split firewood and milked cows. During these early years at the hato, Seudiel met the best Llaneros, whom he admired and eventually wanted to follow in their footsteps.

His brother, Isidro, was from the same ilk. By learning from him, Seco was able to evolve from living a simple life in the plains to become an expert in mounted lassoing and horse taming – crucial skills for any Llaneros.

Seco then lived as an authentic Llanero cattleman for twenty four years, and he can still say he is a true Llanero, despite having branched out into the fields of archaeology and tourism.

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Seco’s rise to fame all started when he had the opportunity to compete in a challenge that had been announced on the radio which was searching for the best Llanero men in San Luis de Panlenque.

His wife Diana, who had not known him when he was a full time Llanero, asked “But what on earth will you do there?”

He laughed and replied “You didn’t know me when I used to work!” So he mounted his horse and presented himself to the judges.

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In order to win the competition, you had to know the right time to get up in the morning, how to properly manage the halter and the many other nuances of work in the plains. Thanks to Seco’s solid reputation, he was registered as a competitor of the Gran Llanerazo and he would be pitted against other Llaneros from different parts of Colombia.

He prepared for a month before going to Yopal for the first challenge, which consisted of 18 days work between the ranches of Maní, Aguazul, Hato Corozal and the other municipalities in Casanare.

After all the challenges he finally had the honour of being named ‘El Gran Llanerazo’.

“The day of prize-giving was something very special. They named me last when calling out the 10 finalists. For me it was a huge surprise, it gives you everything. It gives you recognition. This was my version of a university degree.”

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More than winning the Gran Llanerazo, what Seco values most of all is the recognition for all the men who continue to work in the plains. The nationwide competition of the Gran Llanerazo of San Luis would not be forgotten and from that idea, Seco started to think about tourism and the opportunities that it could bring.

Adding together all the donations and his work, Seco built his own house where he now lives with his family and has adapted it as a museum for travellers, photographers and students. He had always wanted to build it but in truth he never imagined that it was going to be known by so many people.

The ‘campechanas’, the lassos, the halters, all the clothing of the Llaneros made with their own hands are common features in his house.

“I didn’t want to see anything from the Llanero culture disappear, and my intention is to conserve it, conserve all of it because it is so special.”

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He enlisted the help of a professor and a representative from the municipal tourism office to further develop the project. They built friendships with tourist agencies, universities and neighbouring ranches to further their mission.

This rallied effort was used to bolster tourism in the wider region, and also to instigate research for the archaeological pieces that Seco had come across in his land whilst out on the plains. His first discovery was a ceramic piece that he unearthed whilst he dug in a fence post. Groups of students continue to visit him to study and interpret these traces left behind by his ancestors.

Seco says himself that the best thing that has ever happened to him was, without a doubt, having won the Gran Llanerazo competition because of the impact it has had on his life. With the time he has left after his work in the plains he enjoys a different kind of work that allows him to communicate with people. Seco narrates legends and stories using his music and traditional instruments like the ‘cuatro’ (a four-string guitar) to explain to his guests the context of the region he belongs to.

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“It costs a lot to be a good Llanero”, he admits. “It’s a life career, a service, a discipline that requires dedication.”

He misses the old times where there was still original ‘criollo’ cattle. Instead, the cattle of today are tame and genetically modified, no longer giving the authentic Llanero plainsman the opportunity for their rite of passage; they have nothing or no one to learn their skills from.

Because of this, he tries to pass on all he knows to his two daughters, who he puts in charge of looking after visitors when he is absent.

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Seco hopes to see Africa one day, because of its biodiversity and its potential in wildlife conservation. He would also like to continue sharing his story, and that of his region, in order to incentivise people to preserve and value its riches.

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Joro operates trips to Coracora in Colombia and other remote locations around the world. Please get in touch to start your journey with us.

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Words by

Julian Fernandez

Julian is the founding manager of Coracora Camp. A chef by trade his career took him to Turkey, Thailand, and the YL Residence in Koh Samui. Life led him back to Bogota where his passion for conservation, nature, and hospitality returned him to the Llanos Orientales region

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