Sebastien de la Cruz, 11-year-old mariachi, rises above racism

Sebastien de la Cruz, 11-year-old mariachi, rises above racism
Sebastien de la Cruz

Before game three of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the visiting Miami Heat, an 11-year-old boy wearing a mariachi suit sang the national anthem.

Sebastien de la Cruz didn't sing it in Spanish. It wasn't his first time in the spotlight. He has been featured on "America's Got Talent" for his mariachi singing.

He's also known as "El Charro del Oro," or "The Cowboy with the Golden Voice."

While many were proud of his stellar performance, and he was invited to perform again at Thursday night's game, it also unleashed a slew of hatred on social media.

Why?

Because people thought he was Mexican and undocumented.

Among the vitriol hurled at this youngster:

"This lil Mexican snuck in the country like 4 hours ago now he singing the anthem," posted @A2daO.

"So illegal aliens can sing The National Anthem @ games now?" Tweeted @DJ_BMONEY.

"Why is a foreigner singing the national anthem. I realize that's San Antonio but that still ain't Mexico" Tweeted Lewie Groh.

Many of the offensive Tweets have since been taken down.

But it's disturbing they assumed he was undocumented because he has brown skin and wore a mariachi suit.

The fact of the matter is that Sebastien de la Cruz was born in San Antonio. He is Mexican-American. His father also served in the U.S. Navy. You can't get more patriotic that that.

This hateful reaction to his appearance shouldn't surprise.

It's disturbing that it flares up at a time when the U.S. Congress is trying to pass immigration reform.

Immigration reform is an issue that many Latinos care about because whether it was one or 500 years ago their family members crossed the border. In some cases, if they were in the Southwest of the U.S., the border crossed them.

There are an estimated 11 million undocumented in the U.S. and around 6 million are Mexican, according to Pew Hispanic.

But let's not forget that a majority of the more than 50 million Latinos who live in the United States are native born, around 64 percent, according to Pew Hispanic.

Don't assume the other 36 percent are undocumented. They include legal permanent residents and naturalized U.S. citizens like my mariachi stepfather who came to the U.S. more than 50 years ago from Mexico. He wears a cowboy hat and speaks with an accent. But he is an American citizen too.

A majority of the brown faces in the U.S. are not undocumented Mexicans.

However, one in four Hispanic adults report knowing someone that has been deported, according to Pew Hispanic. And a majority of Hispanics support immigration reform because it is the right thing to do. Immigrants contribute to the economy, serve in the nation's armed forces and primarily come here because they want a better future for their children.

My great-grandfather, for example, crossed the border from Mexico into Texas when you didn't need a green card. It was in 1890.

But my nationality and that of young Sebastien should never be questioned just because of how we look or dress.

One can speak Spanish, wear a mariachi suit, sing in Spanish or English, love basketball and still be a proud American. This young man reflects the the bi-culturalism that many Latinos embrace.

Sebastien has many supporters, including actress Eva Longoria.

“This is part of the problem we have today:  separating immigrant and undocumented from the word Latino or the word Mexican-American. There’s a lot of ignorance out there . . .   trying to make the two synonymous,” Longoria told MySanAntonio.com

At the Thursday night basketball game, Sebastien was introduced by the mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, met the coaches of the two teams and received a standing ovation from the fans.

The poise and pride this young man has shown is remarkable.

"Please do not pay attention to the negative people. I am an American living the American Dream. This is part of the American life," Sebastien Tweeted this week.

Wise words from an 11-year-old. More people could learn from his example about what it really means to be an American.

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