When I was in junior high, I came across an old photo of my grandparents dressed in these outrageous costumes—or at least I thought they were outrageous. My grandparents were standing on the winding stairway in their home in San Benito. I asked my mother why her parents were dressed that way, and she explained that they were going to Charro Days. Charro Days?

Obviously, it is some kind of celebration, some kind of party (why else would my grandparents be wearing such ridiculous outfits). But a little research resulted in some interesting insight. First organized in 1937 by the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce to recognize Mexican culture, Charro Days is an annual pre-Lenten bash held in Brownsville over the course of four days. The Mexican city of Matamoros, directly across the border from Brownsville, cooperates with the events. Named to honor the charro, a dashing Mexican horseman, the celebration begins with the traditional Mexican grito, a festive yell, at the international bridge with an exchange of greetings and gifts between the mayors of both cities. Then the party begins, usually including street dances, a rodeo, costume balls, cook-offs, a carnival, and a parade featuring floats depicting Mexican culture.

A pamphlet filled with patterns was issued in 1949 to encourage participants to wear the regional costumes of Mexico; it featured drawings of traditional apparel from Michoacán, Oaxaca, Yucatán, and Chiapas, as well as other regions. The most popular costumes worn during Charro Days are the china poblana dress and the charro suit, presumably what my grandparents were showing off in that photo I found so many years ago.

Would you ever catch me wearing a china poblana dress or my husband wearing a charro suit? Probably not. But you can most likely see hundreds of folks dressed to the nines in the regional costumes of Mexico at this year’s Charro Days February 22-25. Oh, and you can see tejano singer Roberto Pulido perform too. Aaaaaiiiiieeeee!