The Cultural Significance of the Sombrero

My father very rarely wore a sombrero out.  Instead he’d wear a cap or nothing at all.  For him, the sombrero was a tool like any other: a hammer, a nail, a rusty set of pliers, used to shield his eyes and face from the scorching heat.  A game sometimes, when we were all at home playing sorilla.

Mexican cowboy in sombrero
Mexican Cowboy by Rich Zubaty

It was my brothers and I that wore the sombrero as a statement, for a short time as teenagers – the same reason my sisters would wear it for Tejano dances and Norteño clubs.  Quinces, weddings, baptisms, and anywhere else we could get away with wearing a sombrero, we would.

It meant something, even if we didn’t know exactly what.

This year, when we went to the big annual Rodeo Houston we wanted to wear a hat – well I did anyway – but we didn’t have a proper sombrero anywhere in the house.  I think the last time I actually owned one was during my college years.  Even then, though, it only came out and made it onto my head for special occasions.  It made me want to go out and buy one right away.  I resisted.  Once we got to the Rodeo, wouldn’t you know it, they had vendors selling them there as well.  I guess I’m not the only sucker for Western wear during Rodeo season.

Yet, even now after the last country music performer has exited the stage and the multitude of livestock have departed from their three week home at the Reliant Stadium here in town, I’m kind of still longing for my own personal sombrero.  Not for the vanity of having one; nor just to be prepared for next year’s rodeo event, though that would be nice too; but because for the first time in a long time I think I actually am beginning to understand the cultural significance of a sombrero on one’s head.  Por lo menos, what it means to me.

So what does it mean to me?

As cheesy as it might sound, the sombrero is a reminder of who I am, where I’ve come from, and what our story as a familia has been so far.  A reminder that before we all began our own lives and families, we were a small unit of people united by love and ganas, a family who relied on our breadwinner to earn his living and ours with a sombrero.  I don’t ever want to forget that!

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