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¡Viva! Brownsville’s Charro Days Fiesta takes friendship and unity across the border and back January 18, 2018

Posted by Tracy in : Border Culture, Cultural tourism, Texas , trackback

By Tracy L. Barnett
Photos by Larry Ditto
For Texas Journey magazine

Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 3.24.40 PMOn a sunny February afternoon in Brownsville, Beatrice “Chickie” Samano stood on a covered stage and surveyed the crowd as she had done countless times over the decades. Serious in her serape-striped director’s vest, she held a microphone and awaited her cue. Then, as violins began to soar, she took a deep breath, leaned back, and let out a shout so loud and so long it could surely be heard across the Rio Grande in Matamoros:


Whoops and hollers arose from the crowd. Samano finished with a classic Mexican cackle and sharp cries of “Aayy! Aayy! Aayy!”

By then, she was smiling from ear to ear, and the audience was roaring its approval. “¡Viva México!” shouted the emcee. “¡Viva!” yelled
Samano, her fist upraised. “¡Viva los Estados Unidos!” “¡Viva Matamoros!” “¡Viva Brownsville!”

With that, the 80th annual Charro Days Fiesta was officially under way. Launched in 1938, while the nation was in the throes of the
Great Depression, the festival was conceived by Brownsville civic leaders to lift peoples’ spirits and celebrate the town’s Mexican flavor, as well as its friendship with Matamoros, the bustling metropolis across the Mexican border. Organizers named the event for Mexico’s skilled horsemen—charros—and the elegant culture epitomized by their mariachi-style braidtrimmed leather ensembles and wide-brimmed sombreros.

Charro Days parade floats

From its humble beginnings, Charro Days has evolved into a weeklong polychromatic explosion of border culture that draws
upward of 200,000 people. Among the many highlights, festivalgoers from both sides of the border gather on the bridge that
connects the two countries. There’s a three-day Sombrero Festival—a sort of festival within the festival—that features concerts and competitions. Brownsville kids perform traditional dances and music from different Mexican states; a Mexican political or cultural leader makes special appearances; and no fewer than three grand parades make their way through downtown.

“I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say it’s otherworldly, if you’re coming from a place other than the border,” said Brownsville native son and nationally recognized author Oscar Cásares. “This is it, in Technicolor and 3D Blu-ray; it’s full-on wow—part of it is parade, part of it is Sombrero Festival, and it sort of takes over the city in this whole other way.”

Download the PDF here –> Charro Days <– to read the rest of the story, published in the January/February 2018 edition of Texas Journey magazine.


1. nancy Malugani - January 18, 2018

Great article!

2. Tracy Barnett - January 21, 2018

Thank you, Nancy! I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun to write!