Charro Days: Unity and Shared Heritage

By Jill Dominguez

Jill Dominguez is the Lower Valley Executive Director at IDEA Public Schools.

On the border between the United States and Mexico, relations are not as you may think or are hearing on the news.  In fact, last month marked the celebration of the 80th “Charro Days” in Brownsville, Texas.  This two-day fiesta celebrates the unity and shared heritage and traditions between the U.S. and Mexico. When much of the national rhetoric is about a 20 percent Mexico tax and a border wall, our school-aged children are showing us that U.S./Mexico relations are about so much more. 

As the Executive Director of IDEA Public Schools, a public charter school network that started in the Rio Grande Valley, I witness a completely different narrative every day. Our 3500 students and teachers in Brownsville have shown me about the importance of families, traditions, and working together for a common goal.

This year, during “Charro Days” IDEA’s six schools in Brownsville came together to march down Elizabeth Street and perform their traditional Mexican dance routines.  Parents, like Maria Gonzalez, traveled between the U.S. and Mexico gathering costumes and hair ribbons for their daughters for the special occasion. Adriana Ramos, the principal of IDEA Riverview College Prep, developed a relationship with a school in Mexico and invited their marching band to join the IDEA parade line up.  Sixty-five Mexican students, their instruments, and music directors crossed the bridge on foot to partner with their peers at IDEA schools in the U.S. Our students were enamored by the band and spent much of their time before and after the parade talking to their Mexican peers about school.

I don’t want to negate the fact that the national attention around border relations are real.  In our two-day fiesta, we paused to celebrate the beauty and history of cross-border relations, but the fear of what could arise with immigration policies is real.  This raw emotion can be seen in the faces of undocumented parents who have asked neighbors to bring their children to school because they fear being picked up by ‘la migre’ even though they have lived in the same home in the U.S. for 30 years.  It can be seen in the faces of teachers, who through DACA, have been able to legally gain employment in the U.S., but who now fear being added to a government list.  And it is very evident in our young children who go to bed fearing they may wake up without their mom or dad because of the new immigration policies. 

Yes, we are scared of the unknown, fearful of immigration policies, and continue to witness the negative impacts on our students, families, and community. But, our students give us hope. Despite the rhetoric and the realities, our students are proud to be multi-national. They inspire us to stay united and forge ahead, despite the barriers that may try to separate us. They are the change we want to see.

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