Charro Days: History, Culture, and Identity on the U.S.-Mexico Border
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Charro Days is a week-long celebration of friendship between the citizens of Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Tamaulipas along the Rio Grande. It began in 1938 to boost the economy and the spirits of the community suffering from the Great Depression and aftermath of a category 5 hurricane. In my thesis, I explain Brownsville’s history and social makeup following the Mexican American War. I analyze the celebration and its social evolution decade by decade. I explore the ways in which Charro Days uses symbols of Mexicaness and Americaness to highlight the border’s unique position which is situated between cities, countries, and cultures. This thesis examines three events: “Hands Across the Border”, Sombrero Festival, and the Grand International Parade. It explores the ways in which Brownsville and Matamoros citizens use these events to manipulate symbols to create border identity. I discuss each event and pair it with a symbolic and interpretive theory. The three styles of symbolic analysis are those of Clifford Geertz, Sherry Ortner, and Victor Turner. Charro Days is a critical node in the process of creating meaning and identity. This thesis provides insights to how the community uses symbols during Charro Days to create, negotiate, and express a unique bicultural identity.