It's rodeo time in Guatemala, where animal rights take a back-seat to the exploitation of minors.
Oddly enough this kind of authentic local spectacle rarely makes into Revue magazine's Datebook, where December's list of exciting outdoor activities is dominated by exiled gringo carol singers and similarly anodyne seasonal fayre.
Close to midday yesterday we turned up at a terrace bar overlooking the makeshift arena, just in time to witness the junior bull riding competition. Participants lined up and prayed to Santiago before testing themselves against their hot and bothered bovine adversaries.
First out was the five-year-old girl, who managed around two and a half out of eight seconds and was visibly sobbing from the moment the gate opened.
Duly recovered from where she had deposited her face in the dust, the stricken child was passed over the railings and attended to by paramedics who soon gave her the thumbs up. Her mother (smoking and drinking) and father (bien bolo) then got the gun-toting master of ceremonies to announce a collection on behalf of their brave daughter, whereby they acquired a cap-full of coins and billetes with which to continue their excesses.
As soon as she was able to walk again, the little cowgirl was despatched to crawl around under the seating stands, just in case additional lucre was to be discovered there.