"and came upon three vaqueros"
Painting depicting a vaquero roping cattle in 1830s Spanish California
Public DomainPainting depicting a vaquero roping cattle in 1830s Spanish California - Credit: The Old West (Time Life Books)

A vaquero is a Mexican cowboy.

Though popularly considered American, the traditional cowboy began with the Spanish tradition. In 1598, Don Juan de Oñate sent an expedition carrying 7000 head of cattle across the Rio Grande River into New Mexico. From this beginning, vaqueros drove cattle from New Mexico and later Texas to Mexico City. Mexican traditions spread both South and North, influencing equestrian traditions from Argentina to Canada.