For Mexico soccer fans, cheering the national team is 'in your blood'

Ana Rosa Ornelas holds up the Mexican flag that Cesar Gil, left, plans to take to the Rose Bowl for the big U.S.-Mexico soccer match.
Ana Rosa Ornelas holds up the Mexican flag that Cesar Gil, left, plans to take to the Rose Bowl for the big U.S.-Mexico soccer match.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC
Ana Rosa Ornelas holds up the Mexican flag that Cesar Gil, left, plans to take to the Rose Bowl for the big U.S.-Mexico soccer match.
A display of Mexican flags for sale at the El Mercadito shopping center in East Los Angeles.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC
Ana Rosa Ornelas holds up the Mexican flag that Cesar Gil, left, plans to take to the Rose Bowl for the big U.S.-Mexico soccer match.
Mexican-flag plastic trumpets on display at a gift shop in El Mercadito. Soccer fans have been buying them to take to the U.S.-Mexico game Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC


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This week at the El Mercadito shopping center in East Los Angeles, it seemed everybody was talking about the big game Saturday.

Not the Dodgers vs. Mets playoff series, but the U.S. and Mexico soccer showdown at the Rose Bowl. The two national teams are competing for the CONCACAF Cup, one of the most prestigious honors in international soccer.

In her cowboy clothing shop, owner Ana Rosa Ornelas chatted up a customer who’d just bought a giant Mexican flag to take the the Rose Bowl. She's only rooting for one team.

“Mexico," Ornelas said in Spanish. "Mexico a hundred percent."

Ornelas has lived in the U.S. 15 years and loves her adopted country. She said she respects the U.S. national team. But when it comes to Mexican soccer, something else kicks in.

"It’s a kind of pride that’s in your blood, that you can't change no matter what happens, or what team you play against," Ornelas said.

Longtime U.S. residents, even those who were born here, don't necessarily see supporting the Mexican team versus the U.S. team as a question of patriotism. It involves roots, family and history.

Among those who'll be cheering for Mexico on Saturday is Felipe Magallon, a former U.S. Marine.

“I actually played soccer for the U.S. military national team," said Magallon, who was born in the United States but spent time growing up in Mexico.

"That’s the country where I grew up learning how to play soccer," he said. "So yeah, I grew up following the Mexican national team."

At a shop on the ground floor, William Parra and his mother sold red, green and white plastic trumpets reminiscent of a small vuvuzela, the noisy plastic horns that became ubiquitous during the 2010 World Cup finals. They've also been selling complex wooden noisemakers. Both have been flying off the shelves; customers tell them they plan to take them to the game.

Parra said most customers have been Mexico fans, but "I get people on the side who cheer for the U.S. team."

Some houses are divided. Reyna Navarrete owns a store that’s been doing brisk business in Mexican flag sales. However, she says her 23-year-old daughter, who is going to the game, is breaking with tradition.

“Since she was born in the U.S., she’s rooting for the U.S. team," Navarrete said.

But Navarrete also has a 10-year-old son who'll be staying home watching the game on TV, cheering on Mexico along with his parents.

Will you be watching the game? Who are you rooting for? Show us your game face photos with the hashtag #USAvMexico. Tag us on Instagram or Twitter @KPCC.