I Wasn’t Always Like This
It was something I was born into, the same way I was born into two languages and two cultures. Charreria wasn’t something I had a say in. I was born into this art and carried the weight of all the charros that came before me since the time I was a toddler. My father taught me the ropes…literally, the same way other parents teach their kids good table manners.
Who knows where I would have ended up had my training continued, but spending time with my father was scarce because time with family was a luxury we just couldn’t afford. Without my father working 6-7 days a week, we couldn’t make rent. So that was the end of that. So I thought.
I was born and raised in LA and let me tell you, if you ever want to see what a melting pot looks like, go to LA. I was influenced by all kinds of cultures and not just ethnic cultures but subcultures too; rockers, cholos, you name it. I’ve always been interested in building a community and what common factors are meaningful enough to create these kinds of bonds. Above all, I put respect on my family’s traditions.
Unfortunately in LA Charros don’t really exist. And if they do, they don’t pay the bills with their art. So I did what everyone else does. I got myself a job as soon as I could to help contribute to the household expenses and that was it. That’s all there was to me at the time.
I worked my 9 to 5, I paid my bills and I lost a lot of sleep, contemplating if this was all there really was to life.
I felt it coming though. The shift. The change that would be the catalyst to everything that Charro Azteca is now.
In the middle of my melancholic funk came the trigger for all that Charro Azteca eventually became.
I became a father. My first son was born.
All of a sudden I was responsible for raising a man. Immediately, I went to my father for advice. People always said things would change, that I would change once kids came around but I really had no idea what I was in for. Having these man to man talks with my father brought back a lot of memories of my own childhood and learning how to Florear the ropes. I learned how to ride a horse when I was only three years old. I wanted more than anything for those moments with my dad to be passed on to my children too.
The bautizo was coming up and you know it’s huge deal in Mexican culture. I wanted to give a nod to my father and have my son wear something that was meaningful to us. I wanted him to wear a little charrito suit but it was almost impossible to find one. I didn’t want anything cheap. I wanted it to be special and authentic. I had to move mountains just to get something passable for my son.
Finally, the light bulb in my head went off. If I was struggling to find this kind of merchandise in a predominantly Hispanic community, then that meant others like me were too.
Being Chicano means you have to fight twice as hard to hang on to your traditions. If you don’t make deliberate decisions to hang on to them, they disappear little by little as the generations carry on. That was such a real fear for me and I had to do something about it. And there it was. The catalyst for the change I felt coming. The opportunity was staring at me in the face, daring me to jump at it. It was all there for me on a silver platter, wrapped in a big bow. The timing, the ideation, the resources. It was literally in front of me and what did I do? I ignored it.
Actions Speak Louder
I never thought Charro Azteca was going to take off the way it did. I didn’t even believe in it enough myself so I wasn’t too bothered when others confirmed what I already knew: I was inexperienced. I didn’t have the time to take on a side project. The costs were outweighing potential benefits. I had a family to provide for and I didn’t have the money to invest in something that didn’t guarantee a big return.
So even though the idea made me feel rejuvenated and excited again, that’s all I wanted it to be. An idea. More so, a source of comfort or an escape if you will, from the mediocre and mundane happenings of daily life. I wanted to keep it to myself as a source of inspiration and that would be that.
But this idea wasn’t like the others. It was persistent. It was an itch I couldn’t reach and it turned the gears in my mind like never before. I had a lot of doubts and a lot of questions so I set out to find answers.
I poured over books about entrepreneurship despite my day job requiring overtime hours almost every day. I Googled everything I could about social media and how to create content that would break through the chaos of advertising messages. I didn’t want to just gain followers. I wanted to create a community of like-minded people with the same interests.
I studied as much as I could. I lost sleep more than ever before but once I started, I couldn’t stop. Feeding my mind this new information helped formulate a bigger plan for Charro Azteca. I’m telling you, once you do your research, your confidence skyrockets. Even though the doubts were still there, it was easier to say “maybe if I did it this way” than it was before. This time Charro Azteca would be more than a passing thought.
I listed every reason why it couldn’t or wouldn’t work. Then slowly but surely, I chipped away at that list. No social media experience? No problem. I’ll read about it and learn. No money? Ok, let’s save up, let’s get another job, let’s figure it out. The list got shorter and shorter.
I was gaining momentum and it felt good to be passionate about something again. I was only getting better and just as I was ready to put my plans into action, the world came to a still.
My father’s age caught up to him and he became permanently disabled.
Suddenly, the tables turned and now as the eldest son, it was my turn to care for my father. Charro Azteca once again, became just a faraway dream. Just within reach but gone as soon as it came.
But there’s truth to every consejo and every dicho. When they say blessings come in disguise, they mean it.
A Blessing In Disguise
The news of my father’s medical conditions came at a pivotal point in the Charro Azteca story.
I knew the idea would have to take the backburner. Family comes first, always. This is what I was taught as many other Chicanos are taught. But you know just as well as I do, that sometimes this is harder in practice. That’s when I took the opportunity to have a long talk with my dad.
I asked him about work ethic. He worked for the same company for 35 years, 6 or 7 days a week to provide for us. I asked him about charreria and why I was the only one that got to practice as a kid. I asked him for parenting advice. How to raise a good man and how to be one too.
A lot of good came out of that talk but what affected me the most was when he told me that his biggest regret was not spending enough time with me and my siblings. Now in his old age, he sees how much he missed.
My father was aware how absent he was long before he became disabled. He knew there was growing distance between us but it wasn’t that he wasn’t making the effort. It was the fact that he was the head of household and taking weekends off or even making time for a dinner out with family was a luxury. He carried a heavy burden but it was all out of love.
Being a father myself, I knew what I had to do. I had to take this risk and leave it all up to my raw survival skills.
Despite my own doubts, I knew one thing: I wasn’t going to be the reason why my family couldn’t prosper. I wasn’t going to continue living the 9-5 pattern and missing my son’s most important years of development. I was going to do everything in my power to surpass expectations and create a life for my family that my father would have wanted.
I made the decision that day. Charro Azteca would no longer be a dream or just an idea. Charro Azteca was going to become the answer to the problem. It wouldn’t even just be a way to make extra money either. Charro Azteca was going to become a way to connect to my culture, pass on the traditions and uplift communities on both sides of the border.
I didn’t know how, but I knew it would. Sometimes all you’ve got is uncertainty and a prayer. And sometimes, that’s enough to get started on an impossible dream.