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Lifting spirits across the Valley UTRGV to host first annual Charreada as part of 79th Charro Days celebration

The UTRGV “Spur” float sits in the Charro Days storage area for floats and will be showcased in the Illuminated Night and Grand International parades, scheduled at 7 p.m. Friday and 12:30 p.m. Saturday, respectively. Both parades will be on East Elizabeth Street in downtown Brownsville. ANDREA TORRES/ THE RIDER

Vibrant colors and traditional Mexican costumes will brighten the Brownsville campus during the first annual University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Charreada Thursday on the Student Union lawn.

UTRGV legacy institution UT Brownsville previously hosted a celebration in conjunction with Brownsville’s Charro Days Fiesta. The event would feature a golf cart parade through campus and a ceremony welcoming that year’s Mr. Amigo. However, this year will not include a parade.

“[We’ll] have food booths, have some performances, invite the community, invite the students, faculty to come out and just, you know, dress up festive, listen to the performances and come by and support the organizations by buying food,” said Velinda Reyes, associate vice president for community programs and operations.

The Mr. Amigo Association was created in 1964 to recognize “a Mexican citizen who had contributed to the friendship of the United States and Mexico,” according to the organization’s website.

Mr. Amigo 2015 Itatí Cantoral will visit the campus during the Charreada, which is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cantoral is a star of telenovelas, or soap operas, such as “Amores con trampa” (2015) and “Hasta que el dinero nos separe” (2009).

Reyes said the university will recognize Cantoral and give her a bouquet of flowers, framed poster of Charro Days signed by the artist and a UTRGV bag with memorabilia.

Santa Estrella, co-director of and dancer for Grupo Folklórico Tizatlán de UTRGV, was chosen to be the model for the official poster created by local artist Don Breeden for the 79th annual Charro Days Fiesta that takes place throughout Brownsville.

“I was very excited,” Estrella said. “I feel it’s a big honor just to have been selected for it. … I’ve been doing it for the last 17 years and I just feel that just being part of Charro Days is a big accomplishment, it’s a big thing, but being on the poster is just the cherry on the icing.”

In 1937, “local business leaders searched for an antidote to the gloom that engulfed Brownsville during the Great Depression,” according to the Charro Days Fiesta website.

“In 1938, they actually started the first parade and this fiesta we call Charro Days,” said Eduardo “E. J.” Martinez, president of the Charro Days Fiesta organization. “They did it mainly to raise the spirits of the community and they did it with Matamoros, our sister city across [the border].”

Celebrations kicked off Sunday with Baile Del Sol, a street dance at the festival’s headquarters on Elizabeth Street in downtown Brownsville. Tonight, the Brownsville Independent School District will host Fiesta Folklorica, where students will perform dances from Mexico at 6 p.m in Sams Memorial Stadium.

Hands Across the Border will start at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Gateway International Bridge. In this ceremony the mayors of Brownsville and Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, meet and exchange gifts.

That same day, following the Charreada at UTRGV, BISD will host its Children’s Charro Days parade at 2:30 p.m. on East Elizabeth Street.

Noche Mexicana will feature a dinner, folklórico dancers and Mariachi 7 Leguas with a special appearance by Mr. Amigo from 6 to 11 p.m. in the Amigol and Convention Center. Admission is $25 per person.

A float representing UTRGV will be featured in two parades, the Illuminated Night parade, at 7 p.m. Friday, and the Grand International Parade, at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, both on East Elizabeth Street. The official parade marshal will be Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, who is a former Cameron County judge.

Reyes said the Grupo Folklórico Tizatlán will be on the float, which will feature a big boot, spur and charro hat.

For more information and to purchase tickets to the special events, visit the Charro Days Fiesta main office at 455 E. Elizabeth St.

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