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US Hispanics raise the cup of language

Thriving community shows its integration at the Copa América Centenario soccer tournament

Final of the Copa América Centenario, won by Chile over Argentina.
Final of the Copa América Centenario, won by Chile over Argentina. EFE/EPA

The venue is the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford (New Jersey). The time is 8pm, during the final match of the Copa América Centenario soccer tournament. A man from Ecuador is alternately screaming out support for Chile and Argentina, the opposing teams, depending on the play.

“I don’t care who wins,” he tells his Panamanian colleague, who clearly favors Chile.

Juan Irigoyen, a native of Argentina, drove three hours from Connecticut to witness the duel.

Representing 17% of the US population, the reality is that Latinos are as American as any other demographic group in the country

“I have traveled to all the games by the white-and-blue team,” he confesses.

Meanwhile, the Chilean-born Daniel Barrios drove over eight hours from Ohio, where he lives with his family.

And inside the press box, there are all kinds of Spanish accents to be heard, but no English.

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The game attracted 80,000 followers from Latin America and the US. But the only indication that the match was taking place in the United States was the signs in English. For the entire eight hours of the event, Spanish was the language used by the hundreds of citizens from other parts of the Americas who came to the home of the New York Giants to witness some real football.

The Latino community in the US is often described as a fundamental demographic group for election purposes. It has to be seduced, it has to be attracted with social policies, its vote must be courted. Political rhetoric paints them as a separate group, not isolated but not quite integrated, either.

But the MetLife soccer game provided proof of Hispanic integration. Representing 17% of the US population, the reality is that this community is as American as any other demographic group in the country. And as such, it partakes of the nation’s social and sports life, just as it participates in Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July. Never before had this country’s name, United States of America, served so well to describe its population.

English version by Susana Urra.

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