Who Can Sing the National Anthem?

By Ricky Garza, Communications Coordinator, NCLR

Sebastien de la Cruz is something of a celebrity in San Antonio.

At only 10 years old, “El Charro de Oro” has appeared on America’s Got Talent twice, where he advanced to the semifinals. He has opened for internationally renowned mariachi group Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, and is a 5th grade student at San Antonio’s Salinas Elementary School. The young performer is a proud Mexican-American mariachi singer, happily taking part in a Mexican folk tradition with a deep history spanning half a century of popularity in the United States.

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Only building on his short and accomplished musical career, Sebastien was excited to perform the national anthem before a national audience at Game 3 of the NBA Finals in his own hometown of San Antonio. Before the Spurs and the Heat took to the court, the young singer dazzled in his rendition of the anthem and the crowd loved it. Just check out his performance in the video below!


Regrettably, some viewers took to Twitter to attack the young singer, accusing him of being an undocumented immigrant, saying he was surely Mexican and not an American, and generally voicing—through countless expletives and racist slurs—the unambiguous idea that a brown boy wearing a mariachi outfit was unfit to sing our national anthem.

Sebastien politely responded to the unwarranted criticism:

But why these comments in the first place? While those that believe any nonwhite American citizen cannot be allowed to honor our country may be beyond persuasion, others have expressed skepticism and offense towards his choice of outfit for the performance.

As a native Texan and Mexican-American, I thought it was more than appropriate for the occasion, representing the best of what a multicultural America should look like and beautifully showcasing the uniqueness of Hispanic American life in San Antonio and across the country. He dressed in a mariachi outfit because that is what he was known for as a performer and what San Antonio knew him as. Dressing this way only demonstrated that being an American does not mean giving up your ethnic roots and particular interests.Here in the US, mariachi music has been undergoing a resurgence in recent decades, playing out under the radar as at least 500 American public schools have added mariachi programs to their school curriculums since the 1960s.

This does not represent any of what opponents of multiculturalism and Hispanic cultural practices fear: a decline of “American values” and an inevitable trend toward a Mexican takeover of US cultural institutions. Instead, it represents the strength in diversity that has always made our country great, allowing young Americans of all races to choose from ever greater selections of activities, from football, basketball and soccer in sports to a wide variety of musical programs in many schools once inspired by the traditions of other countries. Surely some non-Hispanic students have been introduced to mariachi music through the new programs.

When Sebastien took to the national stage Tuesday night, he was representing the best San Antonio had to offer in a city of over a million people that is over 60% Hispanic, a welcome example of high talent and achievement reflecting the reality of American life in the nation’s 7th largest city.

America is no longer as racially monolithic as it once was, and that isn’t a bad thing. As we grow and change as a country, we must make room for representative role models in entertainment and our most highly visible roles in society. By allowing a brown boy wearing a mariachi outfit to perform the anthem at the NBA Finals, San Antonio and the NBA are saying “this too is American culture, this is also who we are.”

So who can sing the national anthem before a national audience? Any American, hyphenated or not, who has the talent to hit all the right notes.