In the times before COVID-19, this week would have been very different. Thousands of Brownsville and Matamoros residents would be getting dressed up with the typical Mexican costumes. They would be deciding which Mexican-themed parties to attend each night and even have family and friends come over from other parts of the United States to attend the well-known Grand International Parade this weekend.
Due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic that has killed 500,000 Americans, this year residents will have to settle with celebrating Charro Days at home and posting photos of their colorful costumes on social media.
While most miss the celebration and the business of the week, there are others who miss it more since they have been part of the celebration of the fusion of the two cultures for generations.
Such is the case of Beatrice “Chickie” Samano, who is in her 80’s. She has been celebrating Charro Days as long as she can remember and even has photographs of her mother holding her when she was a few months old wearing a China Poblana costume during one of the Charro Days parades.
“I’m waiting for Charro Days, I’m always waiting for that day and always looking forward for them to call me so I can do the grito ,” she said inside her home while wearing a typical costume. “I enjoy Charro Days. Charro Days for me is everything.”
Samano’s father was president of the Charro Days Board of Directors for two years back in the eighties. She remembers attending the parades and even having famous Mr. Amigos attend parties at her house back then. Samano’s described how her mother loved Charro Days and would travel to Mexico City regularly to look for original typical costumes to wear during this celebration. Samano has more than 30 original hand-made costumes of her own.
“It’s very nice that you meet people that you might never see again,” she said. “Because you may become friends with them and I am one of those public relations persons. I talk to everybody and give them my cellphone so they can call me if they ever need anything. I tell them ‘remember, I’m Chickie Samano, don’t forget’!”
Samano’s daughter, local chef Celia Galindo, also has long-time memories of Charro Days. She remembers as a toddler watching the Grand International Parade with her grandmother while sitting on the grass.
“In my house, Charro Days was the bigger event of the year. My grandmother would decorate the house with papel picado , she would buy Mexican candy and we had parties for a week. For me, it was another holiday,” she said. “The holiday that everybody wanted to be in, so it is very important to me.”
Galindo said one of her favorite parts of the celebration is getting the costumes out and remembering experiences when they wore them before meeting a certain Mr. Amigo or a party that they went to.
To the local chef, Charro Days must continue for generations to come because it means the coming together of the two cities and showing the friendship among both nations.
“The meaning for us, and for the whole city, was coming together with our friends in Matamoros, which we were already friends, but it was just that day when they could come shopping, the bridge would open and you wouldn’t need a passport, you wouldn’t need a visa,” she said.” It was like a big fiesta bringing the two nations together, which I wish it was still like that, but things change.”
The first Charro Days celebration was held in 1938 and has been celebrated every year since except 1945. The celebration will turn 85 years old next year and Galindo can’t wait to celebrate it again with her friends and family. She said what she misses the most is the parade.
“I still enjoy it, it might sound really corny but I still enjoy walking the street after the parade is done,” she said. “When people are done, it gets me really in the heart. I love to see just what happens after. I tell my mom that even if I’m not involved in the parade I’ll walk to Second Street and just see the parade. I’m very proud of Charro Days and of my city.”