After reading the assigned book Translation Nation by Hector Tovar, students were asked: Why do Mexicans, who now live in the United States, cheer for the Mexican soccer team when it plays the US team? This is a question that has puzzled me for some time.
Children with two nationalities, living in the US / Mexico border, are often faced with the challenge of deciding which country would be the place to develop a profession and a career; my three children chose the United States. On the other hand, I believed my life was in Mexico, until unfortunate circumstances arose. Before we knew it, my children and I were proudly pursuing the American dream. We love our new country, and everything about it, except, when it comes to soccer games between the United States and Mexico.
My kids are all pro the Mexican team, they cannot understand why their mother roots for the United States team. Don’t think my heart is not with the Mexican players, I cry every time I hear the Mexican national anthem, but I also cry and feel proud when I listen to the Star Spangled Banner. I love the end where it says “the home of the brave,” because I recall all the hardship and the strength it took to start a new life ,and the bravery of leaving everything behind.
On the other hand, I want to understand the reasoning behind my children’s and other people’s attitude. Winning a soccer game is somehow more important to the people of Mexico who, unlike Americans, seem to appreciate and support the sport much more. Then there is the “Malinche” who constantly haunts us…. shouting “traitor!” when we cheer for the American team.
One of the things I enjoyed about Hector Tobar’s book were the excerpts from El Laberinto de la Soledad; the famous book by Mexican author Octavio Paz. “We are a conquered people” wrote Octavio Paz. Maybe soccer gives us the opportunity to be conquerors for a day, to dream about victory and glory is not common among Mexicans. There appears to be a defeating mindset at times, there are many exceptions of course.
Another reason why this phenomenon could happen is because we see how more and more politicians make derogative statements about Mexicans to advance their campaigns. This certainly makes many people very upset. At the same time, most of the upset cannot express their feelings, and cannot manifest their dislike for many different reasons. A defeat by the Mexican team might somehow make the Americans suffer, and for a brief moment, the Americans will feel the pain of being on the losing side.
Last but not least, maybe some root for the Mexican team because it is the last tie they have with the mother country. Deep inside they might feel guilty for abandoning it, and somehow need to make up for having left it behind. There is also the need to belong to something that is truly theirs, even if it’s an allusive feeling. To be part of a culture of warriors, and of people with ancient traditions of sacrifice, courage, and strength, even when using that strength and courage to move to another country; in this case, the United States. Assimilation into the American culture does not come easy; therefore, cheering for the Mexican team could be considered as a brief escape, a moment of liberation.
This question will continue to puzzle many, but one thing is certain: Mexicans love soccer. Maybe there is no particular reason of why they cheer for the Mexican team other than to have a good time, and forget the troubles of life. Mexicans live life with passion, drama is not an uncommon circumstance, and the love of soccer, plus the dream of victory will always drive thousands of Mexicans to the soccer games.
Regardless, Translation Nation by Hector Tovar is a good book to read if you are a Latino living in the United States, or if you like to read about people of different cultures.
I also enjoyed reading the following article which featured the photograph used for this post.