Posts Tagged ‘grito’

Charro Days Without a Wall

February 28, 2008

Charro Days Parade Elizabeth Street     Charro Days makes me happy to live en la frontera. Teenagers too cool to read come to school dressed in native Mexican caporals and anguila boots. Their jangling galas harken back to the first Charro Days some 71 years ago. Charro Days celebrates Frito Pies and tostadas, the indiscernible difference between American tejano music and Mexican norteño songs, the wild festivity of a good grito, the seamlessness of real integration.

    Charro Days, Inc., is a sister-city celebration between Brownsville and Matamoros. With the three bridges and shared population between them, these two cities flow into each other like the lazy Rio Grande which separates them. Parades march through both cities, celebrating life and bi-cultural peace on the border. Sombrero Fest brings several of the best tejano bands to Brownsville, while tacquerias flout their best flautas, tacos, menudo, enchiladas, pozole, elotes, carne asada, barbacoa….

    This local festival flies in the face of the 2006 Secure Fence Act. This act, which calls for the construction of 700 miles of border wall, some of which will cleave Brownsville from Matamoros, cannot have been made by people who have celebrated Charro Days in Brownsville or Matamoros. No longer is Matamoros a potential haven for drug lords; no more is Brownsville the poorest city in the nation. For these few days, these cities are united in celebrating their history, their interconnectedness, their “inescapable network of mutuality.” The laughter, the bilingual children dancing in the streets, the cowboy hats and Mexican mariachi bands – what place does a wall have here? Even Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton weighed in on the wall’s effect on this tradition, saying, “”It is troubling to me that our country’s current border security plan threatens a South Texas tradition historically created to celebrate the sharing of cultures. As I discussed during the debate at the University of Texas at Austin last Thursday, I believe we need to re-evaluate the border wall as it is currently being implemented.” (Brownsville Herald)


    Coming from New York, I thought it strange at first that Brownsville schools do not celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I longed for a special day to honor my personal hero, and I wanted the chance to talk to my students about this supremely important figure of nonviolence and social activism. I could not understand why a celebration called Charro Days was replacing the MLK Day of Service I had always known.

    While Brownsville could certainly use a day of service, I now feel Dr. King would revel in the Charro Days’ festivities. Charro Days celebrates his concept of the Beloved Community. For one day, Mexicans and Americans join together to make real the idea that, “Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds” (Martin Luther King Autobiography 189). The single garment of destiny Dr. King envisioned looks like a charra outfit worn by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans alike. In Sombrero Fest’s jubilation or the tremendous optimism of the Children’s Parade, King’s dream is realized as little white girls and little white boys hold hands with little brown boys and little brown girls. Immigrant and resident, legal and extralegal – none of these terms matter as the sounds and tastes of Matamoros and Brownsville mix in the February air.

Immigration as this Century’s Civil Rights Issue

January 27, 2008

     Looking back on the past week of politics and King celebrations, this great man’s name and legacy were name-dropped countless times and by divergent voices. Hundreds of people used “King” in conjunction with race, and several misappropriated his voice to supporting a particular political candidate, despite the fact that he pointedly avoided joining his support to a certain party because it would compromise his ability to change the status quo if he were linked to it.

    King was a supreme believer in the “interrelatedness of all communities and states.” He went on to state, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds” (Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. 189).

    Certainly King’s movement was not tied up in, or limited to, racial inequality and segregation. By the end of his life he had already began applying his love-force and nonviolent strategies to the anti-war movement. Critics in the late-1960s, some even from within his camp, struggled to understand why he would “hamstring” himself by moving on to another issue before racial equality was fully realized. But this was not a watering-down of his arguments; no, it was the fullest realization of equality. Dr. King died applying nonviolence to unions and working for class equality, and this progress would have inevitably led him to immigrant rights.

    The civil rights movement emancipated those, be they Chicanos or African-Americans, who had been here and been treated unequally for years. Immigration reform is the next civil rights movement, perhaps the last within our borders. Immigration reform means equality for those who are new to this country and assured rights to the future generations who will come here in the future. This is the movement of our generation, to ensure equality and certain inalienable rights to every resident within our borders. King forwarded the fact that no man or woman is illegal; it is our duty to continue providing these rights to everyone in this great nation. As globalization begins to affect human migration patterns, it is crucial that the United States model immigration policies which are humanizing and fair, compassionate and progressive.

    There are no outsiders, no us and no them. It is imperative that one of the world economic powers begin making moral policies. All the economic, all the social, all the political arguments for immigration can and have been made. When it comes down to it, our nation must begin making moral rather than dogmatic decisions. As Dr. King wrote, “if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values” (Autobiography 340). Until we begin thinking morally, it will continue to mean little to us if we spend billions of dollars destroying countries far, far away. Until the U.S. spends more time investing in the hundreds of thousands of people crushed by the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market and less in trying to control the oil moguls, we will continue to fail to live up to our greatest.

    Again, King hits upon this necessary morality of government. He writes, “..True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring… …A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death” (Autobiography 340-1).

    Immigration reform and border policies are the issue of this century in these United States and in the rest of the world. For anyone interested in challenging America to seriously reevaluate the issue of immigration and borders this March 8-16, please visit the No Border Wall Walk link on this page. As the primaries are in full swing and our country prepares for a new leader, this is a unique chance to join our voices in one loud grito for the voiceless.