Only in the Rio Grande Valley can one enjoy a Mariachi concert, a Mexican Folkloric dance recital, the official “Grito” ceremony and Conjunto Norteño music by a band composed of Border Patrol officers.
That was the lineup during Harlingen’s 2013 Mexican Independence celebration at the Municipal Auditorium. The event was well attended, and the La Joya School District Mariachi and folkloric dancers entertained the crowd. Then it was time for the official “Grito’ celebration where the Mexican Consul waves the Mexican flag and cries “Viva Mexico” and “Viva Hidalgo” and mentions all the heroes of the Mexican War of Independence. Spectators respond cheering “Viva Mexico.” This is done to reenact Father Hidalgo’s cry for arms and fight for independence on the eve of September 16th, 1810. It is a moving moment for all of those present regardless of heritage. Events like these are organized by cities across the United States to show good will between neighboring nations and to strengthen working and diplomatic relationships.
Cadets from Harlingen’s Marine Military Academy opened the ceremony with the presentation of colors. Spectators saluted the flag and sang the Star Spangled Banner. Then the party began. The La Joya High School Mariachi serenaded the crowd, and teenage dancers performed traditional Guapangos and mariachi tunes such as the Jarabe Tapatio.
A beautiful 9-year-old girl named Aaron Blount of Harlingen stunned the audience with her powerful voice – even more noticeable if compared to her size – she sang the popular Mariachi song”Los Laureles.”
But it was not until the Los Federales (the Federals) – a band composed of half a dozen Border Patrol officers – were introduced, that the crowd went wild. It was a mixed reaction, but the band’s leader, officer Maldonado, using his charisma addressed the crowd saying; “We are for real,” pointing to his gun. He also thanked Mexican Consul Rodolfo Quilantan Arenas for the invitation and told the crowd they hoped to show their human side. “We do our jobs, but we are human like all of you, and that’s why we’re here to show our appreciation. If you think about it, we actually protect both countries,” said Officer Maldonado in perfect Spanish. It was quite a site, ironically comical, but the gesture was welcomed. The crowd danced and cheered. Their music was basically from northern Mexico and southern Texas; they sang what we know as Conjunto Norteño music. Juana La Cubana, Me Cai de la Nube en que Andaba and other popular melodies.
Officer Maldonado introduced the band members and showed sincere respect for the solemn re-enactment that had just taken place. Their accordion music certainly pleased the crowd. Some people left, but most everybody stayed. At one point, Officer Maldonado suggested to the spectators to say hello to them when out and about in the Valley to what someone from the crowd in the back of the auditorium yelled: “Will you ask for our papers?” to the enjoyment of all.
Another reason to love the Rio Grande Valley – we are just something else.
Photo of Aaron Blount from the Harlingen CISD YouTube video library taken during her performance at the nurse’s appreciation banquet.