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WHy I root for El Tri: an Exploration of Pocho Mexican Nationalism

September 27, 2009



            August 12th finally arrived. Wearing a Mexican national soccer team jersey from the 1998 world cup, blue jeans, a faded, thin soled, and black, white stripped samba’s, I exited my friend apartment on Durango street in Roma, cut across la plaza rio de janeiro, passed a large circular foundation, with a naked giant size David as its center pieces and headed towards the insurgentes metro. A little after lunch, the punks and other youth urban groups congregated at the la glorieta as usual. As the youths passed the time Mexicans of all ages rushed down into the metro taking the pink line towards observatorio or pantitlan. While the movement of Mexicans was normal, their faces revealed a strange mix of emotions. While Mexico has never lost to the United States in the Estadio Azteca and beat the Americans 5-0 in American turf just weeks past, the faces of Mexicans were void of the confidence that history should have provided them: history repeats itself we are told. Instead one sensed excitement and fear mixed with a hidden, but palpable optimism.


Heading towards pantitlan on the pink line, I exited San Juan de Letran at about 2:45, fifteen minutes before kick-off. After finally conquering the large flight of stairs, I made it to the street, turned right at Lopez Madero and entered my friend Daniel’s art deco apartment complex. He greeted me with “fuck man, we better not lose. Lets go find a bar” and a slap on my back, as if my optimism could change the outcome of the match. Heading toward the ostentatious Bellas Artes from calle Lopez we made a left at Madero and instantly became part of hundreds of Mexicans hurriedly making their ways to a television set. After several blocks we arrived at Salon Sol, directly below what used to be a hotel.


We found a spot at the bar, ordered beers and anxiously waited for the referee to blow his whistle. Before the ten-minute mark our fears were confirmed, Mexico could indeed for the first time in the nation’s history lose to the United States in the Estadio Azteca. In the ninth minute Landon Donavon, by far the most hated of American athletes by Mexicans, played a through ball from the midfield to Davies, placing him within strides of Mexico’s 18-yard box. Davies received the ball in stride, dribbled for a few yards and beat the Mexican goalie by placing the ball side net, thus confirming Mexico’s fears. While the spectators in the bar seemed unnerved, the Mexican squad maintained its composure and was rewarded with a 25 yard shoot by Juarez that hit the crossbar before bouncing inside the goal. In the second half Mexico continued to play well, but a goal seemed like a distant possibility. Fortunately, with less than ten minutes remaining in the match, Juarez pushed the ball forward into the American eighteen-yard box, outrunning Donavon and forcing Jay Demirit to shift. Demirit’s slide tackle resulted in the ball bouncing directly in front of Mexican player Sabah. After taking a touch, he riffled the ball above Tim Howard’s hands setting off a celebration in the Estadio Azteca, bars and restaurants across Mexico and the United States.



We ordered another beer and watched the seconds turn into minutes, until eventually the referee blew the whistle. Smiling and tipsy we exited the bar and headed south, back towards Bellas Artes and Lopez Madero.  Excited and relieved I shouted “fuck man, we won. No mames, we fucken won.” Before “fucken won” left my lips and entered the airwaves, a Mexican in his early twenties shouted “eres mexicano por que hablas ingles.” I responded to Eres mexicano porque hables ingles with silence. No witty comeback. No defense of my actions. Those five words made me aware of my status as a Chicano celebrating a Mexican victory on Mexican soil. I was Mexican, I could celebrate the victory, but speaking the language of the enemy I could not. Celebrating in English, the language of the Americans, the day of Mexico’s victory and the day before the anniversary of the conquest of the Aztecs at the hands of the Spaniards must have placed me with the “Malinches” of Mexico. Adulterating his victory, unworthy of wearing Tonatiuh, the Aztec sun god, on my chest.

I should have uttered Mexico is a failed state! Mexicans have to migrate to the United State to support their families! It’s a failed state! My use of English to celebrate is merely a symbol of its failure, its continued failure! But I didn’t. He headed north and we headed south.

When we arrived to my friend’s apartment he updated his facebook status from “Going to a Salon Sol to watch the U.S.A.-Mexico game! Completely torn right now” to “THE AZTECAS BEAT THE GRINGOS, 2-1, AT THE STADIUM OF DEATH. HORRAY!!” As he typed STADIUM OF DEATH, he asked “why do we root for the Mexican national team?” If my use of English confounded the Mexico City denizen, my Mexican nationalism and that of other Chicanos/Mexican-Americans and self-identifying pochos angers, annoys and confuses white Americans. Fans of Victor Davis Hanson, Samuel Huntington will reason that my sense of self is evidence of an effort to conquer the South Western United States. Opting for a logic that emanates from their racism and fear of losing a white national identity, they avoid feeling confused by my nationalism. What follows is for those of you on both sides of the US-Mexican border who are confused and wish to understand what I will proudly label pocho nationalism.


            As the son of migrant parents, grandson of two Braceros, I have benefited greatly from my legal status as an American. I received my college education from UCLA with  financial assistance from the government and government funded scholarships for minorities. Enjoying Mexico’s victory on top of the ancient land of the Aztecs and writing this piece at UNAM’s library on a Friday evening is funded by my current academic institution. I am privileged, privilege that derives from my legal status: an American citizen.

            Yet I am constantly reminded that Mexicans and descendents of Mexicans, contrary to what our birth certificates and passports say, are not American. On my last trip to Los Angeles from Mexico City, the border agent looked at my passport, then looked at me, looked at me a little longer and then asked what I was doing in Mexico. Already suspect, I replied, “research.” “Really,” he said, “what’s your occupation.” “I’m a graduate student,” I said, which was followed by him asking “where?” Before answering I thought shit, like he is going to believe this: “Columbia.” He looked at my passport again and waved me on. After me a White male showed his passport to the agent, the agent said, “welcome home” and waved him on. Even this seemingly innocuous interaction with the state at the airport reveals the fragility of legal documentation. My passport is suspect because to Americans, Mexicans are suspect. Whether we were born in the United States yesterday or have been here for generations, we are always suspect and are always asked to proof our citizenship.

Yet, I am a privileged American. For my undocumented high school and college classmates, papers are a privilege they don’t have. Regardless of their length of time in the states, their future goals, they are denied access to a driver’s license, financial aid, and a place in the political or economic fabric of the United States. Can a nation that treats our brothers, cousins, neighbors, and friends with such inhumanity expect us to cheer for it, to cherish victory over a nation that is sadly “so far from god and so close to the United States?” Not in good faith.   

             But neither do I stand in solidarity with the Mexican state. My nationalism is not rooted in a belief of the benevolence of Mexican government or the myth that all Mexican are entitled to the same benefits. My family and friends are Mexican and being Mexican in the United States is something we constantly experience. The treatment of Braceros during the mid 20th century, the consistent militarization of the border, the homicide of a Mexican male migrant in Pennsylvania by white youths, the recent homicide of a father and daughter in Texas, and the brutality of the minute men point to the danger of being Mexican in the United States. This history results in a Mexican nationalism based on solidarity with my fellow descendants of Mexicans. It is this combined with the cultural practices of my family that make me identify as a Mexican. As a Mexican from Pomona, California I will continue to celebrate Mexican victories over the United States in English and Spanish and in, across, and between the two nations. Will you join me?  

 Please see Daniel Hernandez’s “Why its Ok for Hyphenated Mexicans to root for Mexican Soccer”  for a more ambivalent perspective at the

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