Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

The mariachi singer is more American than his critics

By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
June 17, 2013 -- Updated 1947 GMT (0347 HKT)
At the World Series game on October 24, it was James Taylor who had the save of the night. The singer was there to lead the stadium in the national anthem, but instead of "The Star-Spangled Banner," he began singing "America the Beautiful." He's not the only star who's been caught in an awkward patriotic moment: At the World Series game on October 24, it was James Taylor who had the save of the night. The singer was there to lead the stadium in the national anthem, but instead of "The Star-Spangled Banner," he began singing "America the Beautiful." He's not the only star who's been caught in an awkward patriotic moment:
HIDE CAPTION
Photos: Highs and lows of the national anthem
Highs and lows of the national anthem
Highs and lows of the national anthem
Highs and lows of the national anthem
Highs and lows of the national anthem
Highs and lows of the national anthem
Highs and lows of the national anthem
Photos: Highs and lows of the national anthem
Highs and lows of the national anthem
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 11-year-old Mexican-American who sang national anthem is bashed on social media
  • Ruben Navarrette: The boy is more American than his racist critics
  • He was invited back by the San Antonio Spurs and got cheers for his encore

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

(CNN) -- The scoreboard was clear.

Winner: 11-year-old Sebastien De La Cruz, "El Charro de Oro" (the golden horseman) who became a national story after he sang the national anthem at Game 3 of the NBA playoff series between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat and showed a lot of a talent, heart and class.

Losers: The haters and racists who -- displaying a lot of ignorance -- hid behind the anonymity of Twitter to spew venom and attack the little guy because they thought that no one dressed in a mariachi outfit was certified American enough to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Here's a sample:

"This lil Mexican snuck in the country like 4 hours ago now he's singing the anthem" -- Francois@A2daO

"Who dat lil #Wetback sangin the national anthem at the #Heat game????" -- TJ THA DJ@Tj_Tha_Dj

"Can't believe they had the nerve to have a beaner sing the national anthem of AMERICA #smh" -- THE_GREAT_WHITE@bdub597

"Is this the American National Anthem or the Mexican Hat Dance? Get this lil kid out of here" -- StevenDavid@A1R_STEVEN

"So illegal aliens can sing The National Anthem @ games now?" -- Mr.CheckYaDm@DJ_BMONEY

What does it mean to be an American anyway? Here's a quiz:

On one hand, you have someone who goes before a national audience and shows his love for a country where dreams come true.

On the other, you have an angry mob filled with hatred and racism that, cloaked in the anonymity of Twitter, spews invective at a child.

Now, which do you think represents what it means to be an American? Who do you want to claim? And who would you send packing?

The United States looks out for the powerless, the downtrodden and the oppressed. Our system of government --- a constitutional republic -- protects the minority because majorities can protect themselves.

Meanwhile, De La Cruz took the high road.

Boy returns for NBA encore in mariachi suit

"For those that said something bad about me, I understand it's your opinion," Sebastien told CNN. "I'm a proud American and live in a free country. It's not hurting me. It's just your opinion."

Later, he discussed the backlash with reporters.

"To be honest," he said, "It's just the people how they were raised. My father and my mother told me that you should never judge people by how they look. You should judge them on the inside. And the saying that I go by is never judge a book by its cover."

I don't have that kind of self-restraint. When I hear stories like this, I get sad. Then, I get enraged.

I mean, enough is enough!

De La Cruz is a Mexican-American born in San Antonio.

That means he is part of a community that has -- since Manifest Destiny, the U.S.-Mexican War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 -- put up with more than 100 years of discrimination and mistreatment at the hands of those who consider themselves superior.

Even if, as the racist tweets show, they don't always act in ways that convey this alleged sense of superiority.

The part about De La Cruz being Mexican-American, as opposed to a Mexican immigrant, is essential to the story. It's a complicated road.

"They don't know my life," he told reporters about his tormentors. "My father was actually in the Navy for a really long time...People don't know, they just assume that I'm just Mexican. But I'm not from Mexico. I'm from San Antonio born and raised, a true San Antonio Spurs fan."

When De La Cruz did an interview with Univision, the Spanish-language network, he did it in English.

And this is what the nativists were worried about -- that Mexican-Americans are not assimilating?

The next chapter will be where some Mexican-Americans actually turn on De La Cruz for appearing to distance himself from Mexico. If they do, they'll look as silly as the nativists. The "distance" is already there. He's not a Mexican. He's a Mexican-American. There is a difference.

Finally, thanks to the San Antonio Spurs -- and especially some good people in the front office -- a story that had many Latinos, and other Americans, seething had a Hollywood ending.

De La Cruz was invited back to perform an encore of the national anthem at Game 4. Flanked by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, and his wife Erica -- the boy returned to center stage and belted out an even stronger performance the second time around. I bet there wasn't a dry eye in the arena.

As for the haters, they did what bullies usually do when someone stands up to them. They ran and hid, disabling their Twitter accounts or deleting their comments.

For De La Cruz, who was aware of the comments and the controversy but managed to stay above it, the call-back wasn't political but personal.

"To be invited back to sing the national anthem is just amazing because now I know the San Antonio Spurs like how I sing," Sebastien said. "It makes me feel like I'm doing something legendary."

The rest of us know that the encore was about more than the boy's talent. This was a message. The San Antonio Spurs is a classy outfit that boldly took a stand against bigotry and ignorance.

Naturally. It was the American thing to do.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2235 GMT (0635 HKT)
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 0148 GMT (0948 HKT)
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1851 GMT (0251 HKT)
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0336 GMT (1136 HKT)
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0221 GMT (1021 HKT)
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 2033 GMT (0433 HKT)
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0442 GMT (1242 HKT)
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2004 GMT (0404 HKT)
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2250 GMT (0650 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT