Mind you, since I am no longer in charge of making graphics for the Mexican Soccer Show predictions (yes, it was me behind the curtain the whole time), my dedication to watch the league has not been as consistent. But this game was something I could not miss.
For now, let’s disregard what it means to the people I work with and love and forever indebted to and focus on just the cultural significance of this and I’ll start it with another one of my very fun stories.
When I’m not interning or raising my children, I work as a call center associate for a non-profit that does dental work (aka, I’m a reception in a dental office). The office is in Inglewood, which means a vast majority of our patients are people of color and also Spanish speaking.
My Spanish isn’t great. It’s probably less than great. And sometimes, I get words mixed up. Alongside my job of community outreach, I also handle day-to-day appointments. Right now, we have a waiting list going on for patients that need orthodontic work (fancy way of saying “braces”). This past week, as I was talking on the phone to a Spanish-speaking patient, I said: “Ahorita tenemos una lista de esperanza…” I have been saying this for weeks now. So it made me feel weird when my coworker started laughing at me. Apparently, esperanza means hope whereas, espera means waiting or to wait and it is definitely not the only word I have gotten mixed up. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Take the broadcasters for Univision Deportes and how they mistakenly called Chivas (which means “goat”) “sheep.” As I sat there watching the game, listening to them discuss whether it was flock or herd, I did not even realize they had made a mistake. Obviously, I know Chivas’ mascot is goats, but listening to them speak in Spanglish while watching Liga MX felt so therapeutic the error completely escaped me.
Don’t get me wrong, Spanish-speaking commentators are great and the legacy one feels when watching soccer in Spanish feels right. It feels custom. Whenever I talk to people who do not like soccer, they always mention how much they love to hear the game in Spanish without even understanding it. And I partially can relate to that. I’m a first-generation Mexican-American that speaks Spanish so I can understand most of what they are saying during the games.
But every once in a while, the commentary begins to feel like that one Aunt that speaks Spanish really fast when she is mad and the translator inside your head is working as fast as it can while simultaneously watching the game and suddenly you’re literally lost in translation and you have lost focus on the game and you realize you might not be as Mexican as you realize (or is that just me?).
But during this broadcast, my brain did not feel the need to work harder than it had to. It was therapeutic in the sense that I felt like I belonged. I was finally in a bubble that understood me and people who identify themselves like me. The people that sometimes mess up words in Spanish or might not speak Spanish at all. And it felt really validating. My identity finally felt like it was being recognized not as some “other” demographic, but as an inclusive part of the discussion taking place when it came to Mexican soccer.
Which brings me back to the career side of my excitement and the realization that I’m Katniss or Harry Potter. I’m not as cool as Katniss or Harry Potter but I mean in the sense that I felt like I was starting a revolution or had this grand radical idea when really there have been other people around me who have been plotting and paving the road for people like me to follow. People have already been talking about Mexican soccer and Liga MX in English for years but had not received the recognition they deserved when they first started. It’s really a beautiful thing to see take place.
They might get modest when the spotlight is on them and I’m totally not just saying this because I work for them but the guys at The Mexican Soccer Show and FutMexNation are like my Order of the Phoenix or my Plutarch Heavensbee. They literally are pioneers when it comes to where the recognition for our identity being noticed started. They are the journalists who said, “I’m not solely a Spanish speaker and I’m not necessarily an English-only journalists. I’m somewhere in the middle and I want to be THAT journalists.” The Spanish-English fusion is slowly happening and has been happening for years in different part of journalism and to see it slowly happening in soccer, specifically with Univision Deportes—an entity that most people have grown up watching Liga MX on—is incredibly validating.
So, I might mistake my words sometimes and be laughed at for my Spanish-speaking mistakes. I might also sometimes get frustrated by where I fit in the spectrum of Mexican soccer and journalism. And as Edward James Olmos once said in the movie Selena:
We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It’s exhausting! Nobody knows how tough it is being a Mexican-American!
It has been tough. But it looks like people are beginning to understand the struggle and they are starting to make things a little easier. And they are understanding that Liga MX fans are not just Spanish-speaking. Get ready guys, good things are going to happen.