Mariachi Boy Ignores Racist Remarks

His gifted voice filled the packed stadium just before the much anticipated Game 3 of the NBA finals began. The face off: San Antonio Spurs vs Miami Heat. Television cameras showed the world how beautifully an 11-year-old boy dressed in a tailor made, spur-themed mariachi suit could sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Sebastien de la Cruz, “El Charro de Oro,” was selected by the San Antonio Spurs to play his rendition of the national anthem after country singer Darius Rucker cancelled at the last minute. And he shined like the Golden Charro he is because he’s blessed with a natural talent. Sebastien’s voice is a gift he’s clearly proud sharing with everyone.

America's Got Racism

His art, however, was completely ignored by those prejudiced social critics who saw nothing but the face of an undocumented Mexican. To them, the fact that Sebastien (who performed last year in the NBC's America's Got Talent show and is the lead singer of a live mariachi group) dressed in a suit of Mexican origin, was more than enough to unleash their hate via Twitter.

Blinded by their own unfounded assumptions, they called him derogatory terms, never considering that they were directing their venom toward a very young boy whose only mission is to do what he loves: sing. For that, if nothing else, he deserved respect.

Why is it that when a white cowboy performs the national anthem in rodeos sheathed in Western attire, which is derived directly from that worn by Mexican vaqueros, nobody questions his nationality or calls him anything?

Racist Critics Missing Out on Basic Facts

Had any of these critics who maliciously attacked Sebastien taken the time to educate themselves instead, they’d have learned that the mariachi suit is a piece of functional art that was worn by rancheros and vaqueros in Texas since at least the colonial period, a time when most of the Southwestern United States belonged to Mexico.

Furthermore, they’d have come across a key fact. According to the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Treaty of Guadalupe, signed on February 2, 1848, “guaranteed to protect lands, culture (including the speaking of the Spanish language,) religion and civil rights of wartime residents, who had been Mexican citizens and their descendants.”

What this means is that Sebastien, born and raised in San Antonio, can choose to dress in typical Mexican American attire, sing the national anthem and be and feel as patriotic as President Barack Obama, who actually supported him, tweeting: “Don’t miss @selcharrosdeoro’s encore performance of the national anthem at the #NBAFinal in San Antonio tonight.”

Mr. Obama’s tweet was posted after the destructive Twitter comments and the Spurs had already invited Sebastien to sing again, a move overwhelmingly praised on social media.

A True Caballero

On Thursday, June 13, before Game 4 of the NBA finals, Sebastien returned to the same spot dressed up proudly in mariachi regalia. He was introduced by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who said to a cheering audience: “Please help me give a great welcome to a phenomenal young man, El Charro de Oro, Sebastien de la Cruz!”

El Charro de Oro shined again. He wowed the audience with his voice. Both San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra congratulated him. Sebastien looked happy.

But how did he respond to the torrent of offensive comments?

On Twitter, he wrote, “Please do not pay attention to the negative people. I am an American living the American Dream. This is part of the American life.”

And in an interview he did with KENS-5 News San Antonio, he said: “With the racist remarks, it was just people — how they were raised. My father and my mama told me you should never judge people by how they look. My father was actually in the Navy for a pretty long time. People don’t know; they just assume that I’m just Mexican. But I’m not from Mexico. I’m from San Antonio, born and raised, a true San Antonio Spurs fan.”

And a true caballero.

Who Is Really "American?"

Given the fact that the United States is not exclusively populated by whites and the word “American” does not belong exclusively to whites, it’s of capital relevance to remind everyone exactly what President Barack Obama emphasized in an address at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada earlier this year.

“It’s really important for us to remember our history,” he said while commenting on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which later turned into a bill currently being debated in Congress. “Unless you’re one of the first Americans, a Native American, you came from someplace else. Somebody brought you.”

In this context, the real face of an American is the face of a Native American. The rest are white Americans, Mexican Americans, Black Americans, Asian Americans. . . so for someone of any ethnic background to say or imply anything about another person based entirely on the color of their skin or the way they choose to dress and appear in public is just plain wrong.

The good news is, as of today, Sebastien keeps shining everywhere he goes. He has truly become the boy with the golden voice. And the racists? Ah, they’re being scorned everywhere and asked to keep their unwelcome venom to themselves. ¡Que viva el Charro de Oro!

Readers: Do you think the popular definition of "American" is changing? How? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.