The Soccer Match That Bonded an American with his Colombian Abu
It was an intense 95 minutes in our household when Colombia faced Team USA in Phoenix last June to compete for third place in the centennial edition of Copa America. On one side of the couch, my partner and son who is six were decked out in red, white and blue, while on the other end, my father and I proudly wore our Colombia gear.
My parents don’t live in the United States, so being able to watch the Copa America with them was quite special. As the game progressed, the chanting and whooping filled our den — “ooohs!” from one end of the couch lamenting Team USA’s missed goals and “¡sí!” from the other end, celebrating the spectacular saves of Herbalife-sponsored athlete and Colombian goalie David Ospina.
My son Santi kept asking my soccer-crazy father, Rodrigo, questions about the sport he grew up playing and watching in Colombia. With Santi hanging onto to every word, my father told him about Colombia’s most famous players— Willington Ortiz, Carlos “Pibe” Valderrama, Freddy Rincón and others. As my father answered Santi’s questions, pausing every so often when the Colombia offense gained possession of the ball, I witnessed a moment I will always treasure: a Colombian grandfather and his American-born Latino grandson bonding over their shared love for soccer despite rooting for opposite teams. At some point during the second half, it became evident Colombia would win the match, and my son— as if on cue— changed his USA jersey for the Colombian one.
As he chanted “Colombia, Colombia” next to his proud grandfather, I couldn’t help but laugh and realize how fortunate we are to be able to share our heritage with my children, the newest generation in our family.
Sundays were family time when I was growing up in my native Colombia. During meals at my grandparents’ house, we would discuss the prior week, stories about my grandparents’ youth, age-old beauty secrets, family anecdotes and yes, even political debates. Sitting around my grandparents’ table is one of my most cherished memories growing up.
I appreciate those Sundays even more now as I watch my kids gather around a mini iPad to connect with their grandparents through FaceTime. They may not see each other every Sunday as I did with my grandparents, but that small piece of technology allows them to talk about their latest school projects, what they did over the weekend and yes, their soccer matches!
And, herein lies what is at the heart of Hispanic Heritage Month: the celebration of passing the Latino culture from one generation to another, whether it be through food, music, history, heirlooms, language or sports.
As a Latina mother, it is important for me to teach the customs and traditions I treasure and grew up with. A key lesson is that my children forge the same kind of bond that I had with my grandparents. I know that several years from now, Santi will remember the special moments he shared with his Abu. This Copa America match is one of many memories that will be a part of the man he will one day become and I couldn’t be prouder.
And as a Latina professional, I am fortunate to work for a company that understands the importance of honoring heritage and culture, which is why Herbalife proudly sponsors many Hispanic athletes and teams in the U.S. and Latin America. Most recently, the company announced its sponsorship of Millonarios FC, a Colombian professional soccer team based in my hometown of Bogota.
Whether we gather around a TV to watch a soccer match, a table to eat our favorite Colombian and Puerto Rican dishes or a mini iPad to catch up with my parents, our culture is a fundamental part of who we are and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Angela Arboleda is the Vice President of Government & Community Affairs, Herbalife.
Our Silence is Killing Us
It was early one morning and I was on a press tour, just about to launch my now New York Times bestselling Book, SELF MADE: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant and Rich in Every Way. My first scheduled appearance was on the Fox News morning show, Fox and Friends, because according to my publicist, “that’s a show that sells books.”
Anyone who knows me, knows that privately I am very opinionated; but it’s another thing altogether to step into the national press circuit, which then gets picked up on social media, and potentially have your words haunt you for a long time, particularly when you are not a political pundit.
I went on the show and spoke about my book; about the opportunities for women entrepreneurs; about a nonpartisan, private sector approach to growing the economy; and helping women achieve their self-reliance. Everything was going smoothly until I was suddenly asked the question about “illegal aliens.”
The term itself stung my ears, and I felt I had no choice but to correct the news anchors. “That’s not what they are called,” I said, with all the courage I could muster—“They are undocumented.”
My appearance on Fox News went viral. I received love mail and hate mail alike, and guess what? I lived. Not only did I survive the enormous backlash, but I also walked away feeling so empowered and proud for speaking my mind and standing up for undocumented Latinos. Thank God for a journalist like Jorge Ramos, who has spoken up loudly himself, and has helped me to become so much braver.
But the experience left me wondering why it seems that we, as a culture, don’t speak up as much as we should; and why we aren’t mobilizing peaceful demonstrations, just as we did in support of immigrant rights in 2006, in response to one particular candidate who continues to berate our community. And while there are a few individuals in our community, other than political pundits, speaking up, I strongly believe that it won’t be until we go beyond our $1.3+ trillion purchasing power and actually VOTE that we will ever be taken seriously.
Consider what I wrote in my book about this being the greatest time in history for Latinos financially, specifically for Latinas who are the number one emerging market and the number one purchasers in this country; and that our numbers and our birth rates are greater than every other group by a long shot. So why, I ask, do we seem to lack real political clout?
We should be taking cues from the African American, Jewish and LGBT communities, all groups who continually fight for their rights, who speak up when they are maligned or mistreated. Let’s defend ourselves and people in our community who can’t speak for themselves. Let’s not let our silence get the better of us. By not speaking up, we damage our power base and our ability to be part of the national narrative.
We Latinos need to come together and try to fully understand each other. We share a common language but our individual communities are different and it often feels difficult to comprehend and relate to each other’s respective plight. For example, Mexican and Central Americans are facing difficult immigration issues; Puerto Ricans are contending with the prospect of their country’s bankruptcy; Cuban Americans, not all, are disappointed that our nation is doing business with a communist and totalitarian regime; and most of us cannot even imagine what the future of Venezuela will be following daily protests against the current regime. With such markedly different circumstances, it’s no wonder we haven’t been able to find a common thread. But there is a common thread: WE ARE ALL LATINOS IN THIS COUNTRY.
As a Latina immigrant, I will speak up for other Latinos in my community, especially those who aren’t able to speak for themselves. And I’ll do this because I want my son to see what a person should do for people from his same culture even though we may not all think the same or have the same ideology, even though we may not be from the same race or religion, even though we may not share the same sexual orientation and gender identity. I want him to understand that history has shown us when people don’t speak up and stand up for each other, the darkness that lies in our nature can cause atrocities to occur. I will show my son that silence is the greatest perpetrator of hate.
Some of us may believe that we have nothing to do with those undocumented immigrants who many want to keep out by building a wall, but we don’t have to go very far back to remember that they are us and we are them. There are many smart experts who can resolve the immigration issue; but as Latinos, we should be leading this conversation and not allowing others to determine that for us.
So I ask: is there something we can agree on, is there a common denominator that we can get behind that unites us and allows us to finally bring our potential power into the light, into action and into results that help us as a group? For example, which companies and brands are we supporting with our spending dollars? Think about it: as the number one consumer demographic in this country, we hold incredible influence. With our acquisition power alone and not a single word, we can show the impact of the Latino community. “Actions speak louder than words,” right?
The other thing we must all do is vote. We have the power to sway the vote of the presidency of the U.S., and we cannot sit idle. We absolutely have to use it.
But what are some other ways? What else can we do? How can each one of us be braver, speak louder? How we can instill in our sons and daughters the innate pride that comes with being Latino? How can we teach them the importance and value of this identity, that their lives matter, that they are the future leaders of our country, and that we are willing to fight for them, at all costs?
Who is going to pick up the baton and pass the torch of power and possibility to our children? The answer has to be: WE ARE. WE ALL ARE.
Nely Galán is a media entrepreneur, founder of the Adelante Movement and author of the New York Times best-selling book, SELF MADE: How to Be Empowered, Self-Reliant and Rich in Every Way.