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Beyond Bratwurst: A Journey into the Heart of German Texas January 18, 2018

Posted by Tracy in : Cultural tourism, Texas , add a comment

By Tracy L. Barnett
Photos by Sarah Lim
For Texas Journey magazine

Greg and RodneyLively polka tunes mingled with the scent of grilled bratwurst. A bevy of girls in Bavarian dirndls bounced by aboard a hayride. A young
family tried ninepin bowling on a wooden plank. Then a fellow in a plumed hat, ruffled shirt, and tall riding boots caught my eye.

“Pardon, may I ask,” I began.

He held out a white-gloved hand. “Prince Carl, madame. Charmed, I’m sure.”

For a moment, I could have imagined myself in 19th century Germany. But I was actually 5,000 miles and nearly two centuries away in New Braunfels, at the annual Folkfest celebration of the town’s German pioneer heritage. (more…)

¡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 , 2comments

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.