Culture Smash in the RGV

In the last couple of days we’ve attended Charros Days (a celebration of international goodwill between Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico):

plus a competitive rodeo distinctly celebrating the US of A, with much machoism.

I’ve gotten quite the vision of people here in the Rio Grande Valley.

Charro Days has just begun, but the first day seemed to be all about costumes and dancing. So many little girls wearing tights and tap shoes and traditional flowery dresses.

Winter Texans (aka folks from up north who come down just for the winter) are running the media coverage I’m seeing. They orchestrate a kayak race where you have to have a sombrero on to win. And a beard contest. They wear Day of the Dead roses, no matter the day.

The rodeo has a different, serious vibe.

It began with the Star Spangled Banner and a prayer thanking the Lord for Jesus. There were fireworks, and there were bull-chasing teams named “Bud Light” and “Miller.” The one clown who entertained us while riders settled their mounts made self-deprecating, vaguely effeminate jokes. Turns out he does double duty as the half-time trick-roper and gunslinger, just without the makeup (or makeup jokes).

This father/son duo worked the ring as wranglers for three straight hours.

That young man in the saddle, steering and halting—and keeping his eyes on runaway cattle and bronco—is five years old. As in, too young for kindergarten. Probably wearing a diaper. Already tougher than I was when I started riding at age 8 on a fluffy pony named Flicka.

The couple that epitomized every stereotype I saw all at once sat in front of Tracy and me at the rodeo. Both with jet-black hair, both drinking Bud Lights, although I would have guessed they were only 18 years old. The skin on their faces was so clear and clean, so plump with health and youth. Her top fluttered girlishly around her bare arms. He wore a tan cowboy hat identical to all the men there, with a wide leather belt and his collared shirt tucked in his jeans neatly, cowboy boots that looked like they were both for work and for dress somehow, and a wallet sticking out of his back pocket with a fat, metal Texas star on the corner. They smiled at each other only once or twice; their eyes were on the action in the ring.

Some local men held their well-behaved children in their laps. The woman next to me ate a giant turkey leg by picking at it without touching it to her extra-long fake fingernails. I saw a father absently stroke his daughter’s two pigtails before he set her on her feet. Another pointed wildly to his daughter when the rodeo clown called for someone to floss (this is a dance, turns out). The teeny girl was wearing a black cowboy hat and boots over black and white zebra-striped leggings, and she thrust her hips right and left for the camera, and everyone cheered.

At the end of the rodeo, the clown/gun-slinger’s fiancée rode around the ring in a pink leotard, hanging from the neck of her horse and then doing a headstand and swinging back into the saddle. I thought, there’s not a soul in the world who could pull that off like that. No wonder he’s marrying her. Then I thought about buying a bag of extra spicy Cheetos with a serving of nacho cheese ladled inside.

3 thoughts to “Culture Smash in the RGV”

  1. All the wonderful things I miss from mot being able to travel. I love any sort of local gathering and seeing who actually lives in a place. Sounds like an awesome day
    Lot’s of happy music? Did you get the nachos? We have a little snow coming down here and 12 minutes uphill in Grass Valley they have about 8 inches so far.most routes over the Sierras are closed.

    1. Wow, I will forever think of Grass Valley as the snow place. Lots of happy music, indeed! I may have overloaded on accordion, however.