El Charro de Oro.

First off, what is a charro?

The term is used to refer to a particular type of Mexican horseman… kinda like a cowboy but with a different tie and a much bigger hat. Those things you affectionately call sombreros? Those are charro hats. Even now, in Northern Mexico and some regions in Southern United States, there are charreadas (competitions akin to rodeos), parades, exhibitions, clubs and the like. They even have their own stadium, called lienzo charro, where they do things like play with the reata (rope), exhibit their peerless equestrian skills in complex coreographies, lasso cattle… much like a rodeo but quite more artistic looking (or so I think). Interestingly enough, charros is where mariachi music takes its origin.

And that is what takes me into my reflection for today.

No doubt you know that a kid born in the United States from Mexican parents, Sebastien De La Cruz, went and sang the National Anthem in mariachi style. Most likely you know the reactions it ignited: the racial slurs, the biting criticism, as well as many heartfelt shows of support, including a second night to repeat his performance. “Keep your head up, kid”, they say, “don’t pay attention to the haters”. Even San Antonio’s mayor says so.

I am Mexican through and through. Born and raised. As such, I do not take kindly to racism against me or my peers. I refuse to completely wipe out my accent when I speak English (for reasons other than I keep being told it is sexy), and, in case you have not noticed, I consistently avoid calling the country America, because America is an entire continent, it is not just you, motherfuckers. I will laugh in the face of any English Only initiative, even though I am almost completely bilingual (okay, people keep telling me my English is, like, superb, so I will take their word for it), because as good as my English is, my kids will still speak and read Spanish at home and I would like to see any backwoods lawmaker trying to force me to do otherwise.

I believe, like George Lopez, that we ain’t going nowheres, eh?. We are part of your culture, and even of your economy. You take us away, entire sectors of your industry might collapse, as previously proven in one or two Southern states that I will not mention.

I am proud of being brown, of the Guadalupana, and I do know what Cinco de Mayo is all about, the story behind it, who fought, who won and the General that lead our troops (no, it was not Santa Anna and I am not talking about the Alamo).

And I love mariachi. It is in our blood. I know quite a few songs myself, although many are just bits and pieces; and if you caught me drunk enough (which is just about impossible because I don’t drink) I could take a crack at singing one or two even though I might flunk the higher notes. I am an untrained baritone, you see.

Does this all mean that I support this kid’s performance? No. Not one bit. And it is not out of national pride, it is out of respect for yours.

I can perfectly imagine going into the stadium with my team’s shirt on. Or getting comfy in my chair or couch with a proper stock of snacks and drink. This is the National league, and an American pastime, through and through. My team files in for the National Anthem. We stand up with our hands on our hearts. Out comes a kid… say, that’s an interesting outfit he is wearing. Here comes the glorious notes of the Star Spangled Banner, the anthem that represents my country and all it stands for, the anthem that accompanied me in my childhood…

…Mexican style?

No. Sorry, no. Wrong. You do not play with a country’s national symbol like that. Next time we know there will be a Lady of Guadalupe stamped upon the American flag hoisted up as the President begins his State of the Union. You and I know it will not be so, but that is part of what those who spoke so strongly about it fear. And while I do not endorse the way in which they expressed themselves, I can certainly sympathize with their concerns.

Yes, the United States is a beautiful example of cultures that come together. There are festivities and sometimes entire months to honor Hispanics, African Americans, Germans, Irish, and so on. Entire neighborhoods are little pieces of Italy, China and other countries. The UN itself sits at the heart of New York. I do get the message the kid tried to send.

But I also understand very keenly that, in spite of this being a country built upon the shoulders of immigrants, American identity is very distinct. There are symbols that prevail through the ages, the bald eagle, the stars and stripes, the blue, red and white. Paul Revere, the Boston Tea Party. Young Sebastien wanted to make a strong statement, but to many it felt like a slap on the face, and that is understandable.

So I’m sorry, America. I cannot apologize for what the kid did,  because I am not him and he is not my kid. But I want you to know that I truly love this country, its culture, its ideals, its people. Many, if not all, of my closest friends, are American, and their background and mine coexist in harmony. I am no more fond of your anthem being sung mariachi style than I would be of mine being sung like bluegrass (I cannot think of any other music genre so emblematic for American culture). I think that a mariachi rendition of Star Spangled Banner is a beautiful statement about the marriage of two cultures, a marriage that makes me proud and which I am, to a variable extent, part of. But it is a statement that should be left for different events, not for a very much American and close to the heart pastime,

I’m still calling you United States.

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2 Responses to “El Charro de Oro.”

  1. Thank God for the melting pot that is America. I can not imagine living with one culture, one way of thinking, one style of food. My children are Puerto Rican, Irish and British with touch of French and Indian. But if you asked them their favorite feasts come from Mexico, Greece, and Italy. Thank you for making it okay to be proud of our heritage and be thankful to be American.

    • Thanks for stopping by and chiming in, Redd. I do so love the incredible mix of cultures that this country has become. It’s part of what makes me love it so much. Your family is a nice example of it too!

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