Established in 1937, Charro Days is an annual fiesta celebrated in the city of Brownsville during the latter part of February. The celebration is an homage to the area’s Mexican heritage, and reinforces the cultural, familial, and commercial trade bonds that have long existed between Brownsville and its Mexican sister city, Matamoros.
Charro Days takes its name from the Mexican charro – the legendary horse riders known for their large sombreros, and stylish attire. The first Charro Days celebration was held February 24–27, 1938, and consisted of parades, dances, concerts, and a grand ball in Matamoros known as Noche Mexicana.
The Mr. Amigo Association was added to the Charro Days festivities in 1969. Each year, the group selects a Mexican citizen who contributes to the friendship between Mexico and the United States. Mr. Amigo traditionally presides over the Charro Days opening ceremony which is held in the middle of the Gateway International Bridge, and begins the Mexican grito (celebratory cry). The mayors of Brownsville and Matamoros also exchange greetings and gifts.
Some of the notable celebrities who have been chosen as Mr. Amigo in years passed include: Mario “Cantinflas” Moreno, Vicente Fernández, Juan Gabriel, Lola Beltrán, and Lucha Villa.
The Sombrero Festival was added to Charro Days in 1986. The three-day street festival enriches the fiesta spirit throughout the city. This event takes place in Washington Park located in downtown Historic Brownsville, and features an array of attractions, including the jalapeno eating contest, the grito contest, and the charro bean cook off. The Sombrero Festival also features performances by Tejano, Conjunto, Norteño, Country, and rock music performers.
The most-colorful aspect of Charro Days is the wearing of regional costumes of Mexico by the general public. The tradition began in 1949 when organizers issued a booklet of patterns featuring drawings of women’s and men’s traditional apparel from Michoacán, Oaxaca, Yucatán, and Chiapas, and other regions of Mexico. The china poblana dress, and the charro suit (including sombrero) are among the most popular costumes worn during Charro Days.