The Warm and Lively Colors of Charro Days

I looked up the traditional colors you see in Mexican culture so that I’d know what to call them, and I found “warm and lively.” Perfect! Although, the day we stood in the sun to watch the Charro Days parade was more like hot and lively. It’s still February though, so for folks who are here all year round, near 90s is probably not too bad.

We rode our bikes into the fray of downtown Brownsville for this parade (one of many during Charro Days). Lots of families were mingling around, the women dressed in bright tops and skirts embroidered with flowers and the men in cowboy hats and fancy embroidered shirts, too.

OMG the cuteness of the little kids all dressed up. I worked hard not to take pictures of people standing around, but I can find cute kids in the background of several parade shots, like these two little girls.

Of all the fancy dresses, these homemade skirts were my favorite. You can’t see her daughter much on the left, but her skirt is from similar material. The ribbons in the lady’s hair were everywhere; I so wanted some.

I didn’t mean to get a shot of that lady fully, but I was standing above her on a low brick wall so I could see the parade.

Oh yeah, the parade.

It starts every year with these flags from Mexico, the US, and Texas between. Spot-on symbolism, huh?

Plus, it’s border patrol carrying the flags: they and customs agents marched right after the veterans. Seriously, military and law enforcement were like the first several blocks of this sucker. And the Texas governor. No comment there.

Lemme get to the music and dancing!

Tracy’s favorite floats had full mariachi bands sitting and standing on them, blasting music through amps. I thought this violin section particularly brave with the balancing.

I loved the dancers, with their twirling skirts and tap shoes and fancy hair and big smiles.

This school group’s colors aren’t typical, but look how pretty.

The school groups! So, like any parade, there were middle school and high school marching bands, but instead of being led or followed by majorettes, there were dancers, dancers, dancers.

And the band outfits were mostly variations on traditional Mexican costumes.

Lots of people wear facemasks here, even outside, and each school band had a few kids marching with masks on—they’d pull them down to play their wind instruments then slip them back in place again. I like to imagine someone protecting his abula at home.

Now, there was a long section of horses, which is tricky to talk about. They were “dancing” horses, which meant they’d been trained to lift their feet high and prance forward, sometimes rocking a little, sometimes sidestepping. I know the training can be cruel, which I won’t go into since I don’t know how these particular horses were trained. But I could see how they were being ridden to make them “dance.”

The riders do this quick maneuvering: they’d pull back on the special bits, which would keep the horses from moving forward, and they’d spur them at the same time to move their hind ends up to the bits. That would produce this little hop that looks like a human dance step.

Well, I don’t mean to get into the weeds there. Check out that dress! I think she’s riding sidesaddle, too.

My favorite women’s costumes were the cowboy ones, with jackets like the men’s and a long, mostly straight skirt instead of pants.

Although, you can ride sidesaddle only in that. I guess ladies in those skirts didn’t ride?

My favorite float:

The statue lady is bent, carrying a woven basket of Easter lilies, and somehow they had that basket swaying as if she were trudging along under the load. The real ladies there: look at them! Three different styles of bright dresses. And two cowboys, one in a traditional costume and one dressed the way most men dress here, modern cowboy style.

We watched that parade for the whole thing, maybe three hours? I had to put on a long-sleeved shirt to keep my arms out of the sun, and I ducked under people’s sun umbrellas to take photos. That sun was strong, and, again, it’s only February here!

After the parade we walked over to the big park where the carnival and band were set up so we could find some food, but tickets to get in were $15 (we thought it was free), so we kept walking, to the part of town where the dance exhibitions were wrapping up—that’s where I’d had street corn the weekend before. Elotes, I now know. The only stand with food there had fish tacos: score. We ate them hot in our hands, with lime aqua frescas we poured into our water bottles to keep cold.

All done, we found our bikes and rode back, in and out of traffic. All the cars and trucks in the Rio Grande Valley were inching forward on the surrounding small streets; they were filled with costumed people holding children and looking pleased. Overall, warm and lively for sure.

2 thoughts to “The Warm and Lively Colors of Charro Days”

  1. I love how descriptive and beautiful everything is
    But I just can’t get past your description of how cruel it is the way they train the horses. I am apart if many horse rescue groups. They treat those animals like slaves like automobiles with no feelings. I am sure it was a beautiful display, but the idea of what they do to those gorgeous animals appalling
    Thank you for describing the experience I will continue to work on help this gorgeous creatures to get out of slaughter houses and out if the pits of hell that they live in when they definitely don’t deserve it!!!

    1. I’d never heard of “dancing horses” until I saw this group, and I was horrified by the little I could see of how they’re treated. I googled it right there to confirm my guess that their training is despicable. Thank you for speaking up on behalf of the horses and for your rescue work.