Sebastién de la Cruz, who was at the receiving end of numerous xenophobic social media taunts after he sang the Star-Spangled Banner at the 2013 NBA Finals in San Antonio, was back in the spotlight during Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Miami.
Now 15 years old, de la Cruz, who is of Mexican descent and known as “El Charro de Oro” (The Golden Cowboy), took the stage to sing the national anthem dressed in a traditional mariachi-style outfit.
The crowd at Miami-Dade College clapped appreciatively, but the conversation on Twitter followed much the same pattern as in 2013, when people referred to him as an “illegal alien” and used other ethnic slurs.
De la Cruz sang the anthem before the third game of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, and as an 11-year-old he took the criticisms with grace, confidently returning to sing the anthem again before Game 4.
"I think the people were talking bad because of what I was wearing, and it's not my fault," de la Cruz told KSAT. "It's what I love, and I'm just proud to be a mariachi singer. It's their opinion, actually, and if they don't like mariachi, that's their problem. I love it."
He added, “People ... 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.”
The former “America’s Got Talent” contestant also tweeted: “Please do not pay attention to the negative people. I am an American living the American Dream. This is part of the American life.”
Not all the reactions to de la Cruz singing at Wednesday's debate were negative.