Chances are if you have seen a charrito in a baptismal outfit, a charro themed quinceñera or wedding in your Instagram feed the source is Charro Azteca. What started out as a way to pass on cultural traditions to his newborn son has turned into a full-time job for Francisco “Paco” Galvez.
The direct translation of a charro is Mexican cowboy, but in reality, they are so much more. Being a charro is a sport with its own rules, dress, and etiquette. Traditionally a sport of the upper-class in Mexico, it is now practiced not only for competition, but to keep cultural traditions alive.
With nearly 400K followers on Instagram and Facebook combined, as well as over 20,000 five-star reviews, Charro Azteca has leveraged social media to market their products all over the country. Whether it be nostalgia, cultural pride, or charros making a modern-day comeback, Charro Azteca has achieved a level of success very few small business owners ever see.
I sat down with Paco, to talk about the inspiration behind Charro Azteca and why he felt the calling to keep charro traditions going strong.
When did Charro Azteca begin?
I started on Facebook first when my wife was in labor in January of 2015. She was being induced, so I had time to kill and I started posting charro product ideas. People started DMing me wanting to purchase products. I actually didn’t even have products yet, but there was such a demand that people were willing to trust me enough to give me their money, and then I had the responsibility of going out and finding the right products. Eventually, little by little I found contacts where I could get products on both sides of the border.
Why did you start Charro Azteca?
My son really is the inspiration behind Charro Azteca. I grew up as a city kid in Los Angeles, but my dad crossed the border from Mexico before I was born, and he grew up with the charro traditions. My grandfather was a talavatero, and he used to make all the gear for charros. He is from Zacatecas, and my father is from Jalisco. Where they are from played an important role in why charro was such a big part of my family, because Colotlan, Jalisoco where my grandfather grew up is the world capital of pitea fiber which is what is used to make the embroidery on charro outfits.
My dad wanted me to practice the sport, he wanted me to be a charro and dress a certain way. I was a baby wearing boots and a sombrero – I rode a horse on my own starting at three years old. Living in LA, having a horse and buying all the products was really hard and eventually my father couldn’t afford it. His bigger priority was feeding us, paying rent and making sure we had everything we needed.
As I got older, I tried to find myself – I loved Tupac, Metallica and being a charro wasn’t a part of my life. I began a career in finance and then when my wife got pregnant with my son, I began to ask myself what traditions I was going to teach him. My grandfather passed on the charro life to my dad and my dad tried to pass it on to me, but I realized that what they were trying to pass on generation to generation was going to die with me unless I taught it to my son.
People have always said that the younger generations don’t care about or are not proud of where they came from, but I think, in this case, it is because charro products weren’t readily accessible to everyone.
What does Charro Azteca mean to you?
I think my business is a reflection of me. At first, I think I was selling a particular product, but now I realize that what I am selling is cultural pride. Charro Azteca is about wearing your Mexican heritage with pride. We aren’t just a retail company we are a cultural company – we are providing knowledge to our community through our products, podcasts and blogs.
What is your number one selling item?
The charrito suits for baptisms and quinceñeras sell really well. Charro quinceñeras have become really popular in the last couple of years and everyone wants authentic clothing.
What is your favorite piece of Charro clothing? Hat, boots, pants, etc.?
The sombrero is my favorite because it is a symbol of Mexico. People might not know the true meaning behind the sombrero, but when they see it – they automatically think of Mexico. It is really the finishing touch on a charro outfit. You can’t have a charro wedding or quinceñera without a sombrero.
Where are most of your customers located? Why do you think that is?
Most of my customers are from the East Coast. I thought I was going to sell the majority of my product in the south in California, Texas, Arizona or Nevada. This hasn’t been the case and it was really a surprise to me, because I really didn’t think I would sell in the eastern or northern states like Alaska.
One of the biggest realizations I have had is that Mexicans are everywhere in this country. It was a real eyeopener, and we have customers tell us all the time that they are so happy we exist or else they would have to wait for a family member to go to Mexico and bring back what they need or fly somewhere and shop for it themselves.
Do you think social media has pushed your business forward?
If it weren’t for Facebook and Instagram, Charro Azteca wouldn’t exist. I think I would have given up, because it would have made having this business much harder. I learned how to market the business through Instagram and Facebook. I became obsessive about it – I read a ton of books and listened to podcasts and learned my craft. I think this became my competitive advantage, because I wasn’t the first one to try and sell these products, but I learned how to do it on social media. I was an early adapter to social media and saw the opportunity – I have been just riding the wave.