The vaqueros who rounded up cattle along the border during the late 19th century adopted the practice of grilling meats and cooking food over burning hardwoods. This competition is a celebration of that smoke-scented Tex-Mex legacy. A few feet from Guerra and me, beef ribs were sizzling over mesquite coals. Not far from that, a cabrito (baby goat) was split and splayed over a grate-topped steel box filled with glowing embers. Carne guisada (beef stew) bubbled in an iron pot suspended over a fire pit, which was tended to by two burly guys in matching pink shirts. In another iron pot nearby, chili was simmering, filling the air with the scent of chile piquin, the tiny pepper that grows wild all over southern Texas and is, along with mesquite, essential to vaquero food. I also saw people baking pan de campo, the traditional vaquero flat bread, in cast-iron dutch ovens. One of the fellows who was entered in the fajita category handed me a strip of perfectly seared, medium-rare meat from the center portion of a skirt steak. A far cry from the overdone fajita meat I've had at many Tex-Mex joints, it had a juicy, beefy flavor that primed me for what was to come.