SB Nation

Jorge Arangure Jr. | January 24, 2013

The Americas' Team

The Tijuana Xolos bridge the gap between Mexico and America

Not so long ago, crossing the border between San Diego and Tijuana wasn’t much of a hassle.

Although Mexicans would always complain that border guards were a bit too aggressive in searching vehicles, condescending when questioning drivers or simply rude when inspecting passports or green cards, that was the extent of the inconvenience. It was just good, old-fashioned racial profiling. Of course, if you were trying to sneak in illegal fruit, unauthorized goods, or undocumented people and were sent to secondary inspection, well, those were troubles of your own doing.

No Mexican living in San Diego was unaware of the border routine. Known as the busiest land port crossing in the world, no matter how long or inconvenient the wait, almost 35,000 motorists still crossed the San Diego-Tijuana border every day. It was simply a way of life.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the routine. Suddenly, everything was scrutinized and even the rudest guards seemed reasonable in their requests. It was a matter of public safety, after all, but the trips back and forth across the border to Tijuana or San Diego were not so easy anymore. Heightened security did as much to damage the relationship between Tijuana and San Diego as Mexico’s growing drug war. The whole experience turned off casual tourists and in the mid-2000s, when word spread that people were being kidnapped, well, that was just another reason not to venture past that border.

Tijuana became the city of the stranded.

No kid who grew up near the border in either San Diego or Tijuana was unaware of what that simple line in the sand meant. It was the great divide: the difference between the land of opportunity and the land of ambiguity.

Tijuanenses, as we called ourselves, loved our city, but we were fully aware that the town served more as a passageway than a destination. Many of those who stayed in Tijuana had no choice. They couldn’t cross the border, either legally or illegally. Tijuana became the city of the stranded.

The border shaped everything around us, and although we may not have realized the extent of it until some of us moved elsewhere, being a border kid was an experience unlike any other in the United States or Mexico. There is a duality of life, a duality of identities, and a duality of geography that permeates everything. Every Mexican kid who grew up on either side had relatives who crossed the barrier every day, who wanted to cross it, or crossed it themselves. The border was as familiar as a sibling, a part of everyday life, never too far away, and sometimes just plain irritating. Rarely did a day pass by without someone mentioning the length of the wait at the border.

Yet despite the hassle - or perhaps because of it – those who live on either side of the border, and the people who live near it, are unique, sharing an identity only with each other.

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As a boy growing up in Tijuana, Alejandro Guido would cross that border every day to go to school in San Diego. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Tijuana residents attend San Diego schools, most using addresses of relatives in the U.S. to gain enrollment.

The daily commute, as always, was a chore. Guido, who was born in San Diego to Mexican parents, woke up early in the day, much earlier than his classmates. Often the wait to cross was unbearable and all Guido wanted to do was go back to sleep. Such an early start made his school day seem even longer. School was already difficult enough, and trying to learn while exhausted made it even tougher. However, a proper American education was important for his family, and provided opportunity. The sacrifices were worthwhile.

A team that now may represent the future of the professional game in America – make that the Americas.

When he returned home to Tijuana after school, Guido would spend most of his time playing soccer, his passion. Although Tijuana was never known as a soccer hotbed – baseball is more popular – Guido cared about no other sport. Eventually, he grew up to be a standout player, a member of the U15 Mexican national team.

When he was 14, Guido and his family moved to Florida so he could attend the prestigious private IMG Soccer Academy in Bradenton. A dual citizen of both the United States and Mexico, Guido soon earned the attention of U.S. Soccer scouts and joined the American national team. He played with various American youth national teams, and represented the U.S. in the 2011 CONCACAF U17 championship. But his club career was somewhat of a mess. Although he had attracted some interest from Major League Soccer, he never seriously considered joining a team because life in MLS could be difficult for young players. Teams always seemed to prefer the David Beckhams of the world rather than prospects like Guido.

Instead, at age 18 Guido went to Europe and spent three months in Holland trying to earn a professional contract with the club team Vitesse. When that effort stalled, in the early months of 2012 Guido came back to the United States and started looking at his options to play professionally in Mexico, where both the pay and the playing opportunities would be much better than if he joined an MLS team.

Guido’s father had grown up rooting for Cruz Azul and Guido himself was a Club America fan. But when it came time to decide to sign a contract, Guido noticed a more attractive option; the recently promoted Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles, a team that only a few years earlier did not even exist, but one that now may represent the future of the professional game in America – make that the Americas.

The Xolos are the reigning champions of Liga MX, and that first crown could be the start of a dynasty.

★ ★ ★
A brilliant strategy: embracing the border and turning that barrier into an advantage.

Established in 2007, the Xolos – the nickname references a type of dogs bred by the Aztecs – rapidly climbed the ranks of Mexican professional soccer due to what appeared to be a brilliant strategy: embracing the border and turning that barrier into an advantage. From the beginning they chose to seek out players that accurately represented the people of the area, those already familiar with the way of life that so defined the region. They also worked to attract fans on either side who measure their lives by crossing the border.

Estadio Caliente, the home of the Xolos, sits on what used to be the final turn at the old Agua Caliente horse racetrack and casino. A smaller track for dog racing still exists adjacent to the stadium, as does a casino and gambling hall.

Built in the late 1920s by three Americans and a Mexican businessman, at one time the racetrack attracted the Hollywood crowd, movie stars who would travel south for a day of decadent misbehavior during Prohibition and for several years afterward. Celebrities such as Clark Gable, the Marx Brothers, Bing Crosby, and Charlie Chaplin, among many others, would spend the day at the racetrack gambling and drinking. Even the great horse Seabiscuit raced at Agua Caliente.

In the mid-1930s Mexican president Lazaro Cardenas banned gambling at the casino, but the racetrack continued to operate and became a more modest, local attraction. Agua Caliente went through several incarnations, including a massive rebuilding after a devastating fire in the 1970s, and by the mid-’80s it was purchased by a betting company owned by former Mexico City mayor Carlos Hank Gonzalez, and managed by one of his sons, Jorge Hank Rhon.

To call Hank Rhon, who served as Tijuana’s mayor from 2004 thru 2007, controversial would be an understatement. He has been accused of consorting with drug dealers; was arrested in 2011 when police found 40 rifles, 48 handguns, 9,298 bullets, 70 ammunition clips, and a gas grenade in his home; had his name appear in a Wikileaks document where the Agua Caliente racetrack was described as being “secure havens for organized crime on the border”; and two of his former bodyguards were convicted of assassinating a journalist. Although he has escaped any significant jail time, as a result of some of his activities, Rhon’s travel visa to the United States was voided in 2009.

He also owns a private zoo at his house, and has 19 children. And he owns the Xolos.

He also owns a private zoo at his house, and has 19 children. And he owns the Xolos.

Although he has passed off day-to-day control of the team to one of his sons, Jorge Alberto, the family does not often speak to the press. There are too many uncomfortable questions, and too many uncomfortable answers, particularly when speaking of something other than the Xolos.

Hank Rhon’s involvement placed a cloud over the team from the outset. Nobody knew if the team was a front for illegal activities, a vanity project that would fail to reach out to fans, or whether the Xolos were simply Rhon’s way of getting more people into his the gambling halls.

It was a dubious start, but perhaps appropriate. There has always been a seedy element to Tijuana, a sense of lawlessness, and under Hank Rhon the Xolos fit right in.

Now however, when critics in Mexico continue to point out the uncomfortable union of sport and gambling that exists within the Caliente complex, few question Rhon’s intentions with the Xolos. The success of the franchise appears to have answered most concerns. Success has been no accident, and answers many questions.

From a business standpoint, the Xolos saw a wide open market from the start. Even as the team dreamed of promotion from the second division, they eyed a future monopoly in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Eager to take advantage of the local San Diego, Tijuana, and Mexicali markets, they acted aggressively to make that happen.

First, the team established a reserve team in far-off Sinaloa, more than 600 miles to the south, and then, in addition to the one they already had in Tijuana, built a school and academy in nearby Rosarito. They also began to attend scouting events in the United States, specifically targeting Mexican-American players.

“Even when they were a second division team, they had a youth system, which is really rare,” said Joaquin Escoto, director of media and marketing for Alianza de Futbol Hispano, an organization that helps develop Hispanic soccer players in the United States.

They could offer players the opportunity to play Mexican soccer while living in the United States.

Xolos’ scouts attended most of Alianza’s scouting events, and while they couldn’t always out-bid some bigger Mexican teams for players, their presence indicated a willingness to compete. They knew that if their scouts attended enough events, they would become recognized by the players. Tijuana also knew the Xolos had one advantage over every other team: they could offer players the opportunity to play Mexican soccer while living in the United States.

Such an advantage cannot be understated. Escoto said that in recent years 25 kids from Alianza have signed with professional teams, the majority in Mexico. Although most would have preferred to stay in the U.S., and many get homesick almost immediately as they struggle to adapt to life in Mexico, where few have lived before, they realize there is more professional opportunity in Liga MX.

“Many of these youth identify in the U.S. with a hyphenated identity as Mexican-American because of the negative ways in which media and politicians portray Mexicans in the U.S.,” said University of Southern California professor Jody Vallejo, author of “Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican-American Middle Class.” Disparaging stereotypes about Mexicans helps to reinforce a Mexican identity and even if these kids wanted to identify simply as ‘American’ our society and their everyday interactions reinforce that they are Mexican American. What is interesting is that when these kids visit Mexico they are seen as foreigners and outsiders and are identified by Mexicans in Mexico as Americans. Moreover, some of these kids might not even speak Spanish that well or at all and this makes them seem even more American. So, it remains to be seen whether these youth will ever be fully comfortable living in a country in which they were not raised.”

The task for Xolos has been to convince players like Guido that Tijuana can be an inviting environment for them, and to convince fans along the border not to see the team as either Mexican or American, but to embrace the hyphen and see the border as a bridge, and not a barrier.

In this way, they have created a unique team, one that reflects life in a place that always seems defined by a line between cultures, using that line not to define differences, but to underscore similarities. Just as F.C. Barcelona built the best team in the world using the cultural divide between Spain and Catalonia to attract players from that region to its famed academy, the Xolos, on a smaller scale, plan to do the same. Using this approach, by the 2011 season the Xolos played their way into the first division.

In early 2012, about the time Guido was looking for an opportunity to play, they qualified for the playoffs. Although teams in Mexican soccer’s first division can have only five foreign players, the team’s starting lineup in their first playoff game in 2012 featured only five players born in Mexico. The others were either nationalized foreigners, or players who had parents born in Mexico, which made them eligible to count as Mexicans on the roster. The Xolos had become a team of the stranded.

The team’s front office also reflected Tijuana’s unique diversity. Tijuana’s assistant general manager and the public face of the franchise, Roberto Cornejo, knew what it meant to be a Tijuanense. Although he was born in Mexico City, he had studied and lived in San Diego. He was a futbol fan and an American football fan. He understood both worlds.

They all had come to Tijuana to play for the Xolos because there was no place else for them to go.

Although Tijuana had previously signed Mexican-American players like Joe Corona, Edgar Castillo and Greg Garza, those three players had limited options. Corona had quit school in order to help support his family and joined the team when they were still in the second division. Castillo had failed with Club America and Santos Laguna and Tijuana probably represented his last chance in Mexican soccer. Garza had floated around several clubs and signed partly on Corona’s recommendation. They all had come to Tijuana to play for the Xolos because there was no place else for them to go.

Castillo’s story is particularly telling. At the end of the 2011 season, his career in Mexican soccer appeared over. The native of Las Cruces, NM, a left back, had failed in several stints with Santos and his tenure at Club America in Mexico City ended in disappointment.

He never really had a chance in Mexico City. Castillo, 26, had played on several Mexican national youth teams, including the team that failed to qualify for the Olympics in 2008. The press and fans alike vilified the team and considered them an embarrassment. Castillo’s career, rightfully so or not, was stained by the experience.

Midway through his tenure with Club America, Castillo decided to switch allegiance and play for the United States National Team, a decision he knew would be controversial. His parents, huge soccer fans from Torreon, Coahuila, strongly advised him against it.

However, Castillo figured that since his Olympic coach, Hugo Sanchez, who was also senior team coach, had been fired, his playing time with Mexico would dwindle. On the other hand, U.S. national coach Bob Bradley promised him an opportunity to compete for playing time.

Once he made the switch, people who recognized him on the street in Mexico City called him a traitor, and he was similarly marked by the press. Although Castillo never consistently played well for Club America, his new national team allegiance ensured that he would have to play far above average to be accepted.

The pressure from fans and media became too much. The negative attention wore on him and affected his play.

He knew he had no future with Club America and rarely played, which affected his standing with the U.S. National Team – if he didn’t play he would not get called up. Then, when U.S. Soccer fired Bradley, Castillo no longer had an ally in the U.S. federation. Castillo would have to prove himself anew to coach Jurgen Klinsmann. But if he never played, how could he do that?

His salvation came by way of a phone call from Tijuana. The Xolos wanted to acquire him on loan. Castillo had never thought about playing for Xolos, but soon realized it was an ideal fit. Being a hyphenated Mexican-American caused conflict in Mexico City, but the Xolos saw it as a positive. Besides, if he played with Tijuana, Castillo could easily travel to the United States every day, which would make life easier on his children. His parents, who still lived in El Paso, could visit more frequently. Most importantly, Tijuana manager Antonio Mohammed suggested that he could step into the starting lineup.

“I have been on a few clubs and not playing,” Castillo said. “The good thing was that the coach wanted me here.”

In his first season with Tijuana, Castillo, finally able to relax and focus on his game, emerged as one of the team’s best players. In turn, Klinsmann invited him to rejoin the American national team. Castillo moved into a home in Tijuana and found peace in the relative anonymity that came from playing far away from the Mexican capital.

Nobody in Tijuana calls him a traitor. If there are people who can understand what it is like to have dual nationalities, it is people who live on the border. For the first time in his professional career, Castillo is accepted and feels at peace. The best part of his day is when, after a long day of practice, Castillo can kiss his children goodnight. On off days, he takes his family shopping or dining in San Diego, another advantage of playing for Tijuana. While the wait can still be a hassle, the hyphen in his identity allows him to move easily between two worlds.

When team executives asked him to speak with Guido about joining the club, Castillo was enthusiastic. Tijuana had helped save his career and he saw that it could do the same for others who shared a similar background.

Castillo moved to Tijuana on a permanent transfer prior to the 2012 Apertura, the league’s fall tournament.

“I think it’s a smart idea bringing in players from the U.S.,” Castillo said. “They get more playing time and now we’re doing well. The Americans have helped put the Xolos up high. Xolos are a very good club. But they’re trying to become a big club. We’re not a big club like [Club] America, like Chivas, but we’re writing our own story.”

When Guido traveled to Tijuana to examine the team’s facilities, which were undergoing renovations, Cornejo made his pitch. He told Guido about the team’s plans for a high-end stadium, and that the team wanted to have players who reflected the region. Most importantly, he told Guido the club wanted not just to avoid relegation, but to win a championship, an ambitious and apparently unrealistic goal for such a new team. But in Tijuana, on the border with the land of opportunity, anything seems possible. Almost everyone in Tijuana arrived with an almost impossible dream. This was just another.

Guido was convinced and spurned several other Mexican teams to sign with the Xolos. It didn’t hurt that the Xolos played so close to the United States that Guido could live in San Diego and commute to Tijuana to work, an ironic twist on his childhood journey from home to school.

Soon after Guido signed, another top Mexican-American youth player, Stevie Rodriguez from Southern California, also joined the Xolos. Tijuana’s grand vision was rapidly becoming a reality.

“It’s already attractive to guys like me,” Guido said. “I came here. Stevie came here. More players are going to come here.”

Unlike Castillo, Guido was a young prospect with potential, highly sought after by several clubs. Although slight, Guido is a skilled playmaker who moves in dedicated bursts, the kind of player to build around. Off the field, he appears to be a normal teenager, indistinguishable from the rest of his jean- and Converse-wearing classmates, but on the field he is attractive and charismatic. The Xolos knew he could be the perfect face of the franchise. When he signed it proved the Xolos could compete with any team for top young Mexican-American players, which was their intent all along.

“We don’t think we can compete with those big teams for players, we are already doing it,” Cornejo said. “Certainly there are players who were born in this region who are playing for other teams, but if we had existed several years before, then I think they would be playing for us.”

This past winter the Xolos won a surprising league championship.

Remarkably, the strategy paid off far earlier than anyone could have dreamed. This past winter the Xolos won a surprising league championship. They raced into first place at the start of the season, then fell back and entered the playoffs as a No. 2 seed. Tijuana first surprised CONCACAF Champions League titleholders Monterrey, came back from a 2-0 aggregate deficit against Leon, and then easily swept away Toluca in the finals.

Using their cross-border strategy, the Xolos evolved into a team in the formal sense, one without superstars. None of the players in their starting 11 started for their respective national teams. The Xolos won because of disciplined team play and one of the league’s best defenses, becoming the type of blue-collar team that hard working fans on both sides of the border found easy to embrace.

Tijuana fans were overjoyed by the championship. Soon after the finals, the team paraded the league trophy around town in a massive celebration. It was the region’s most important sporting achievement of the year, and quite possibly ever, even including San Diego.

With this vision and sense of the region, and a proven record of accomplishment, the six-year-old Xolos have built a foundation for even greater success. This year, the team will compete in the CONCACAF Champions League. Their finish in the standings also qualified them to compete in South America’s version of the champion’s league, the Copa Libertadores, where in group play they will face Brazilian powerhouse and FIFA Club World champion Corinthians, who recently defeated mighty Chelsea of England. Nobody expects the Xolos to win either of those tournaments, but thus far they have thrived as underdogs.

Even the team’s front office had not expected victory to come so quickly, but now that it has, they realize they have the potential to become one of the biggest soccer teams not just of North America, but of the Americas, a bridge across the border. Success has only expanded the team’s horizons. They see no reason to wait, and are eager to grow. Team executives are now taking aim at areas far beyond the local market, from distant Sinaloa to as far north as Los Angeles and as far east as Las Vegas, a geographic area roughly the size of Texas.

“The economic potential that those areas mean for us is immense,” Cornejo said. “Through our results and the quality of soccer that the team plays is how we’ve grown. That high level of football we have. Because the people who follow football in Tijuana, and in this region, are the types of fans who recognize high level of soccer. We’ve increased our fans at each level of success the team has had.”

There is not just a growing pool of soccer-playing Mexicans in the U.S., but more fans.

Looking ahead, the Xolos and Cornejo see exactly what the recent U.S. census revealed, and what the American Republican and Democratic parties saw in the last election: a changing America. In 2010, California’s Hispanic population made up 37 percent of the state’s total population. In Nevada, the Hispanic population was 26 percent. In Arizona, it was 30 percent. The Mexican-American population is booming and becoming an economic force. There is not just a growing pool of soccer-playing Mexicans in the U.S., but more fans.

While it’s stereotypical to think all Hispanics are soccer fans, the truth is that a large majority actually are.

“Many Mexican-American kids grow up in households where parents or families hold allegiances to specific soccer teams from their region, similar to how people in the U.S. feel about baseball or football teams,” Vallejo said. “Soccer is a way that youth maintain bonds with parents, families, and hometowns. We know that immigrant youth do better in school when they remain ensconced within their families and communities and soccer is a way to reinforce these important bonds.”

Mexican-Americans in Southern California could root for MLS’ Los Angeles Galaxy -- who have not had a premier Mexican player on the roster in ages -- or they could cheer for Chivas USA, the bastardized American version of Mexico’s Chivas de Guadalajara, widely regarded as the most popular team in Mexico. Yet most do not. Many simply choose to root for their parent’s favorite Mexican League team, one to which they likely have no close geographical connection.

The Xolos see a huge void in the market, and are determined to take advantage of it.

However, soccer fans in Arizona or Nevada don’t even have an MLS team, and the closest Mexican League team in the region, prior to the Xolos’ arrival, was Santos Laguna in Torreon, still about a thousand miles away. The Xolos see a huge void in the market, and are determined to take advantage of it. No soccer team to date, either in the United States or in Mexico, has ever before recognized and targeted Mexican-Americans, a growing, yet until recently, nearly invisible market. The Xolos have. They look at the border and see opportunity on both sides.

★ ★ ★

Game day at Estadio Caliente begins with a tailgate party, a mostly American football phenomenon that has now crossed the border. Tender portions of beef called carne asada, used for tacos, sizzle on grills purchased in stores in the United States. Most fans are dressed in red and black, the Xolos’ team colors. Yet every now and then you will see a blue San Diego Chargers jersey, an indication of the diverse fan base available to the team, fans of both futbol and football. Near game time, fans stream into the stadium where vendors sell tacos, beer, spicy bloody marys, and nearly every other kind of northern Baja California casual cuisine.

The stadium itself is still mostly under construction. To adhere to Mexican League standards, the Xolos must expand capacity -- currently about 23,000 -- to nearly 30,000. In one corner of the stadium, luxury suites near completion. In a sense, the whole club almost seems like one big construction project. It just so happened that even while under construction, the Xolos managed to win a championship. The dream is to make that as permanent as the new structure.

The goal is for the mostly Mexican faces in the crowd to be joined by more and more American faces. In the past year, the team has started to promote the club in the United States. The Xolos recently opened up training academies in Chula Vista in South San Diego and in Temecula in the northern part of the city, and executives hope that in the not too distant future the team will be able to field a team comprised of 60 percent academy products, which inevitably means more Tijuana and Southern California kids. As the team more closely resembles the area, they hope their fans will more closely mirror the region.

“The city of Tijuana has much more in common, and has a better relationship with San Diego than it does with Mexico City, economically, demographically, culturally,” Cornejo said. “These are historic patterns.”

In November, the team opened a kiosk at a mall in Bonita in south San Diego, the only official Liga MX team store in the United States. Last summer the team also hired Ivan Orozco, who used to cover the Xolos for a small San Diego newspaper, as the team’s English press liaison. Orozco has helped develop an English website for the team and runs the team’s official English twitter account. No other Mexican League team has either an English website or twitter account.

The team is aggressively courting the American sporting press. Orozco often drives American journalists to games in his own car. For some reporters who have not traveled to Tijuana in years, perhaps since 9/11, the drive is somewhat of a surprise. Tijuana is expanding and renovating at a rapid pace. The potholed roads that once led to the stadium are now freshly paved and appear as well kept as American highways. Even the border crossings have been updated.

“You know this wall was built by Mexicans,” Orozco had said when we were crossing from San Diego into Tijuana to attend a Xolos match in November. He was referring to the barricade built by the U.S. government that now borders the modern gate crossing recently built by the Mexican government at the cost of more than $70 million.

It seems to be the ultimate irony: Mexicans living in the United States hired to build a wall to keep Mexicans living in Mexico out. But everyone from the border understands. Even as Tijuana modernizes, border politics remain the same.

★ ★ ★
What if a soccer team could bring two cities, two countries together to root for one common goal?

On my first day of kindergarten in San Ysidro many years ago, shortly after we had moved to the U.S. from Tijuana, a teacher asked whether I should be called “Jorge” or “George.” My mother, without hesitation, responded “Jorge.” It was then I realized, even as a little boy, that identity mattered, that being Mexican was important, and that while we were in a new country, in a new house, with new friends, I would always be “Jorge” from Tijuana, not “George” from south San Diego. My duality was in my name.

Yet very soon after that day I was startled out of sleep by a sound that seemed from another world, like a thousand baseball bats swinging and missing at the same time. I got up from my bed and ran to a window. I looked up to the sky and saw a helicopter flying low to the ground, so low that I thought it might crash into my house. On the front of the helicopter a spotlight aimed at my backyard made it appear as though a play was being staged. After several moments, the helicopter went away. Almost immediately, I heard rustling near our bushes and saw several men run toward our neighbor’s backyard.

I was confused. The next day I asked my parents what had happened and they explained to me that the helicopter was part of the border patrol, and that the men were from Mexico who were in the country illegally. If these men were caught by the border patrol, my parents said, they would be taken back to Mexico. My parents did as best as they could to explain border politics to a 5-year-old, but it didn’t all quite make sense. The helicopters continued to be a constant presence during my childhood, and I continued to be confused by them.

It all makes sense now.

I was blessed to be Mexican-American, to be part of two cultures, but for a long time I also believed it be a curse because you felt you were never really totally a part of either world. Being a border kid was like being in purgatory, stuck in between like the hyphen.

The relationship between the two countries, and between Tijuana and San Diego, has always been complicated, and yet they will always be inexorably linked. There are Mexicans on one side of the border who look and sound just like the Mexicans on the other side. In many cases, those two sides aren’t allowed to interact. It doesn’t make sense, after all. The difference, really, is only a line in the sand.

But what if a local soccer team could aid in understanding? What if a soccer team could bring two cities, two countries together to root for one common goal? What if the line is a hyphen, something that does not divide the two, but links them, Mexicans and Americans, finally together for once, rooting for Mexican-Americans, for each other, for ourselves? What would that mean?

It would show that people have no boundaries, that you don’t have to decide what you are, that you can just be.

Photo Credit: Hefebreo

About the Author

Jorge Arangure Jr. is a freelance sportswriter based out of Brooklyn, New York. He is a contributing writer for The New York Times and Sports on Earth. He was previously a staff writer at ESPN and The Washington Post. He was born in Tijuana, Mexico, grew up in San Diego, and attended The University of Southern California and Syracuse University.