The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley this year celebrated the 79th annual Charro Days event Thursday with its first Charreada and welcomed Mr. Amigo Itatí Cantoral to the Brownsville Campus.
The Charreada is UTRGV’s party celebrating the eight-decade Charro Days tradition, which honors the long-standing friendship between Brownsville and Matamoros.
Throughout the day, the UTRGV Grupo Folklórico Tizatlán, the UTRGV Mariachi Aztlán, and the UTRGV Marimba Reyna del Valle entertained the crowd with traditional Mexican songs and dances.
In keeping with the cultural fervor that historically infuses the Brownsville community during Charro Days, many of the visitors proudly wore colorful regional attire from a variety of Mexican states, as they strolled the Student Union Lawn to visit the booths and tents set up by student organizations selling food and sharing information about their groups.
“We strive to conserve Mexican folk heritage through the art of dance,” said Dr. Zelma Mata, associate professor of Health and Human Performance and co-director of the Grupo Folklórico Tizatlán, who wore the striking dress of the Tehuana from the state of Oaxaca.
Cantoral arrived on campus and took the stage accompanied by UTRGV President Guy Bailey, Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Havidan Rodriguez, Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez and Matamoros Mayor Leticia Salazar, along with other university and municipal leaders and dignitaries.
A particularly moving moment came when Jose Perez, a senior music education major and member of the Mariachi Aztlán, serenaded Cantoral with “El Reloj,” a song by her father, Roberto Cantoral, a musician and composer and himself a former Mr. Amigo.
The actress sat, rapt, and applauded. Then she jumped to her feet and embraced Perez with emotion.
“Singing to her was special,” Perez said later. “It’s a moment I never thought I would have. I admire Roberto Cantoral, so to sing a song that special, to someone that close to him, is tremendous.”
UTRGV President Bailey said he was thrilled to be celebrating his first Charro Days.
“I am so impressed by the spirit of this community,” Bailey said. “This is a great place to live. Those who live on the border know the friendship we share.”
When Cantoral took the stage, she spoke with deep emotion, sharing a poem by her father: “Grow inebriated with love and poetry; reject wildness; you can achieve everything by trusting yourself. Harvest lilies of peace … pray for a better world, full of hope.”
“Thank you so much for having me,” she told the large crowd of fans, “and please keep studying. There are no excuses, because now there are so many possibilities for you. Remember, our future is in the hands of our students.”
Sophomores Karina Beltran and Viviana Cantu were excited to see this year’s Mr. Amigo in person.
“I’ve seen all her telenovelas,” Beltran said. “Her recent character’s name is ‘Puchis’ in Amores con Trampa.”
Cantu said this was the first time she has seen a celebrity in person.
“She is from all the telenovelas I watched when I was little,” Cantu said.
Nora Segura, a senior criminal justice major, said the Charreada was a great way to get people involved with UTRGV by showcasing UTRGV organizations at booths and tents.
“I think it is a great idea to bring the community together, and it shows we can come together and make a great event,” Segura said.
Assistant Vice President for Community Programs and Operations Velinda Reyes said the Charreada was very much a collaborative effort.
“I tried to find people who had been involved before and definitely involved Student Involvement,” she said. “People who knew what was done before were giving ideas and offering suggestions – and the Charreada was born.”
Reyes said the event served as an excellent platform to showcase student organizations and the campus for the community.
“I think the crowd was amazing and wonderful,” she said. “That is what we were trying to do – trying to capture the importance of Charro Days and all the activities and say that, as a university, it means a lot to us and to our students that we embrace that.”