Local historian Anthony Knopp recounts Charro Days’ early days - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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History Lesson Local historian Anthony Knopp recounts Charro Days’ early days

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Posted: Sunday, February 18, 2018 10:10 pm

Generations of Brownsville families have enjoyed Charro Days.

But some might not know that it was created in 1938 as a means to lift spirits during the Depression.

“It was about having a big party, kind of to lift spirits during the Depression and also it was hoped that it might be something that attracted visitors to Brownsville to spend a little money,” Anthony Knopp, professor emeritus at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, explained.

Knopp, who also leads historical tours in downtown Brownsville, is a local historian who meticulously records Brownsville’s history.

He is also an expert in Charro Days history, having co-authored a book called “Charro Days in Brownsville,” which examines the origins of Charro Days and how it’s evolved over the years.

In addition to being a measure to lift spirits during the country’s worst Depression, it may also have been a means to compete in the age-old rivalry between Hidalgo and Cameron counties.

“Kind of the inspiration, I think, was the Citrus Parade that started up in Mission about a year or so earlier,” Knopp said. “So these guys got the idea that here’s a chance to have something that might bring in tourism but might make people feel good.”

And over the years, the celebration has really stayed the same with parades and street dancing and people dressed in colorful Charro outfits.

The biggest evolution in Charro Days, however, has been the addition of Mr. Amigo and the Sombrero Fest.

“It’s evolved quite a bit, particularly with the involvement of Mr. Amigo, which came later … and the Sombrero Fest, which was an attempt to revitalize community involvement in Charro Days because it became kind of formalized, kind of an elite thing that elements of the community dressed up at private or semi-private events,” Knopp said.

The other large difference between early and modern Charro Days is also the presence of the military, which ended when U.S. Army no longer used FortBrown.

The other obvious difference between modern and historical Charro Days is that in the early days there were simply fewer distractions for Brownsville residents.

“I don’t think that Charro Days permeates Brownsville society quite the way it did back then,” Knopp said. “There weren’t as many distractions back then that would pull people’s attention in other directions and (Brownvsille) was a more compact community.”

Now in its 81st edition, Charro Days officially kicked off on Sunday with the Baile del Sol.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

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