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11-Year-Old Keeps Singing In Face Of Hate

Sebastien de la Cruz gave an encore performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the NBA Finals game on Thursday.
David J. Phillip
Sebastien de la Cruz gave an encore performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the NBA Finals game on Thursday.

It's not often an 11-year-old boy gets to sing the national anthem twice during the NBA Finals.

But, as our friends at The Two-Way reported, it's been a surprising week for Sebastien de la Cruz of San Antonio.

Known as "El Charro de Oro" (or, figuratively, the boy with the golden voice), Sebastien was born and raised in San Antonio. The Mexican-American boy first belted his heart out for his home basketball team, the Spurs, on Tuesday night — which actually wasn't even supposed to have happened.

Sebastien was a last-minute replacement singer for Tuesday's game, says San Antonio Express-News columnist Jeanne Jakle, who has followed Sebastien since his TV debut last year on America's Got Talent.

"It was just luck that he was able to say yes," Jakle says. "In fact, he jumped at the chance. He loves the Spurs."

Sebastien described the experience as "amazing" to local TV station KENS 5.

"To be honest, it was actually in slow motion for me," Sebastien said. "I don't know how to explain it. It was just one of those moments."

But that moment turned sour when the booing began online with racist comments saying a Latino kid dressed in a traditional mariachi outfit should not sing the national anthem.

In response to the online vitriol, the Spurs invited Sebastien back Thursday night for an encore performance that was introduced courtside by San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and his wife, Erica.

Castro said whether Sebastien is wearing a mariachi outfit or a kilt, the fact is the kid's got talent. The mayor insists he is as much the face of America as any other child.

"Folks should not be surprised that you have a young man with brown skin in a mariachi outfit but who was born in Texas and is a proud American who is singing our national anthem," he said.

That, Castro added, is the America that we live in in 2013.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit

Hansi Lo Wang (he/him) is a national correspondent for NPR reporting on the people, power and money behind the U.S. census.
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