International Parade puts unique history on display

BROWNSVILLE — For the Lu family, the array of colors and sounds as the Grand International Parade made its way to the Gateway International Bridge was quite an experience.

At times, Pierre Lu was even more excited than his children as he waved at nearly every passerby — law enforcement, politician, or performer — with a huge smile.

“We’re learning a lot, because the culture is very rich, very unique in this city with its multi-cultural, bilingual influence,” Lu said.

They moved to Brownsville five years ago and have only just had the chance to view the parade this year.

“We wanted to see all there is to see at Charro Days: the parades, the colors and to learn about the border lands,” Lu said.

Work always came up just as Charro Days was around the corner, said Mitch Priest, a four-year resident of Brownsville.

When he finally was able to attend the International Parade, one of his first thoughts was how much bigger it seemed compared to the Christmas Parade.

Many people participated in the parade — city commissioners, Border Patrol officers, even Chancellor John Sharp of the Texas A&M system — that stops in Matamoros.

Plenty of food vendors set up shop on both sides of Elizabeth Street so people could eat as they watched the dancers and horse riders perform.

Priest also took some time to learn about the history surrounding Charro Days. It may not be a part of his heritage, but it is important nonetheless, he said.

“I think it’s important to celebrate culture. You shouldn’t forget your heritage,” Priest said.

Alicia Justilian convinced her daughter, Samantha, to come to the parade again with her this year. The two have missed years here and there, but they always enjoy it when they can attend.

“What I love is all the people coming together, all the beautiful colors, and the excitement in the air,” Alicia said. “I love seeing everyone applauding and cheering as the parade moves forward.”

The food is nice, too, Samantha said.

When Alicia cannot make the parade, she watches it on TV. It does not feel the same, she said. Sometimes, people in Brownsville may not fully appreciate the unique lifestyle they have because they grew up with it. Charro Days is a good time to reflect on that, Alicia said.

“I think that being on the border, we need to appreciate our neighbors and the conditions and the culture we have here,” Alicia said. “To be on the border is not something everyone can experience.”