Charro Days is an annual fiesta celebrated in the city of Brownsville, Texas, during the latter part of February. This festival commemorates the Mexican heritage of the area and bonds both Mexican and American sides of the Rio Grande.
Regardless of the harsh period of economic crisis left by the Mexican Revolution and World War I, border cities such as Brownsville continued growing during the early decades of the twentieth century. In 1937, influenced by the Citrus Fiesta in Mission, Texas, and the opening of the port of Brownsville, Brownsville businessman Kenneth Faxon, known as the “father” of Charro Days, and selected members of the Pan American Round Table directed the local chamber of commerce to coordinate a committee to commemorate a fiesta and pre-Lenten festivity. The event was named Charro Days in honor of the charros, “dashing Mexican gentlemen cowboys.” The first Charro Days celebration was held on February 24–27, 1938. The fiesta consisted of three parades, dances, races (motor and sail boat), a bullfight, a rodeo, a concert by the Banda de Artillería from Mexico City, a grand ball, and a Noche Mexicana (held in Matamoros). Paramount News documented the first Charro Days celebration and released an approximately fifteen-minute colored motion picture that was shown throughout the Valley in spring 1938.
To encourage the wearing of regional costumes of Mexico, a booklet of patterns for Charro Days was issued in 1949 and featured drawings of women’s and men’s traditional apparel from Michoacán, Oaxaca, Yucatán, and Chiapas, as well as other regions of the country. The china poblana dress and the charro suit are among the most popular costumes worn during Charro Days. During the early 1950s the international bridges across the Rio Grande were open for all to cross and partake in festivities.
The Mr. Amigo Association was created by members of the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce in the early 1960s to promote international relations between the United States and Mexico. A nominee for Mr. Amigo of the year has to be a role model for the Hispanic community by showing excellence in his/her personal and professional life, and also must be a Mexican citizen. Miguel Alemán, a former president of Mexico, became the first Mr. Amigo. Some personalities that have accepted the Mr. Amigo prize are: Mario Moreno/“Cantinflas” (comedian), Raúl Velasco (television personality), Armando Manzanero (composer and singer), Vicente Fernández (actor and singer), Juan Gabriel (composer and singer), Lola Beltrán (singer and the first female Mr. Amigo), Verónica Castro (actress and singer), Lucha Villa (singer and actress), Angélica María (actress and singer), Silvia Pinal (actress), and José Sulaimán (businessman) among others.
In 1986 the Sombrero Festival was included to the list of main events during Charro Days to enrich the fiesta spirit throughout the city. This three-day event takes place in Washington Park located in historic downtown Brownsville and hosts different attractions, including the jalapeno eating contest, the grito contest, and the Charro bean cookoff. The Sombrero Festival presents Hispanic artists, live music, and food booths.
The Charro Days festival begins with the traditional Mexican grito (celebratory cry) at the Gateway International Bridge and with an exchange of words and gifts by the mayors of both cities. Since the earliest Charro Days fiesta, the celebrations have included as many as four parades complete with floats, a rodeo, mariachi and marimba concerts, and ballet folklorico performances by school students. Two principal street dances—the Noche Mexicana and the Baile del Sol—are both held in the city of Brownsville. A Charro Days Fiesta organization oversees the extensive program. In the 2010s the celebration spanned a week or more of various events.