Entertainment

Not One Of The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Players Is Latina, Here’s Why

On July 7, the U.S. Women’s National Team went up against the Netherlands Women’s National Team for the FIFA Women’s World Cup and USWNT took home the championship cup. During the team’s victory speech in New York, U.S. women’s soccer star and forward, Megan Rapinoe, said, “We got white girls, black girls, and everything in between.”

However, Rapinoe should have thought twice before making that statement. After all, what exactly did she mean by “everything in between” if the U.S. Women’s National Team didn’t feature a single Latina woman on its roster this year?

Rapinoe’s comments recently inspired a Los Angeles Times story about an L.A. girls soccer club trying to make the face of women’s soccer.

Columnist Bill Plaschke spoke to young soccer players from the Downtown Los Angeles Soccer Club, whose team is mostly made up of Latina athletes “facing economic and cultural battles that have long kept them on the soccer sidelines.” The Downtown Los Angeles Soccer Club is made up of 175 girls trying to change the face of women’s soccer that has historically been dominated by white women. 

“That’s why …. I like watching [the U.S. Women’s national team] and everything, but I still say my idol is Lionel Messi,” said 15-year-old-striker Nayelli Barahona

This critique of the U.S. Women’s National Football Team is not new. When they also held the title for world champions in 2017, NPR’s Latino USA published an article “Why Is Women’s Soccer so White?” 

Audio producer and journalist Michael Simon Johnson writes, “The United States women’s national soccer team is far from a beacon of diversity, especially when compared to their male counterparts. With few women of color––and no Latinas––the team is extremely white, in spite of soccer’s entrenched place in Latin American culture.” 

However, the issue isn’t that young girls of color aren’t interested in playing the sport. 

But rather, as NPR notes, “youth soccer’s play-to-play system favors not necessarily the most talented children, but the children of parents who can afford elite clubs’ steep fees.” Club soccer fees run from $2,000 to $5,000 annually, per the Los Angeles Times.

That’s where Downtown Los Angeles Soccer Club comes in. Their club president Mick Muhlfriedel helps run the all-volunteer operation out of a middle school field in Pico-Union. According to Mulhfriedel, “some of the girls contribute $25 a month. Most pay nothing.” 

Since the 1991 World Cup, there have been 12 women of color on the U.S. World Cup or Olympic teams.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, 14-year-old girls drop out sports at twice the rate of boys. 

“Add in the lack of diverse role models and access, transportation issues and the cost, the number of obstacles facing girls of color in the game of soccer becomes poignantly evident. Although progress has been slow, there has been progress. It would be remiss to not acknowledge some of the black players who are trailblazing on the field,” writes Stephanie Taylor of Girls Soccer Network.

In September 2018, Hope Solo also penned an opinion piece that focused on what’s wrong when the U.S. women’s soccer teams are dominated by “white girls next door.”

She writes that race was something most people on the teams she played didn’t want to discuss or even acknowledge. 

“Over most of my 20-year career, I hadn’t realized how uncomfortable some teammates were around certain coaches or officials. Most players wanted to represent the US, to be at the Olympics or the World Cup, and they’re proud to be on the team. So they kept quiet. But those conversations with teammates who felt things were off, means race is an issue we need to discuss a whole lot more,” Solo writes. “The numbers are very clear. We need more men and women of color to represent US national teams. So few players of color representing the USWNT means there are great athletes across the country we are ignoring.” 

The Los Angeles Times also cites that according to NCAA reports from 2017-2018, only 8% of female soccer players were Latino women. This is why it’s so important to not only advocate for young Latina athletes but also help mobilize the conversations further surrounding not only gender parity’s in professional sports but also race. 

In the last two years, the Downtown Los Angeles Soccer Club has won three of their eight major tournaments and made it to the finals three other times. This fall, the Los Angeles Times writes that they’ll compete in the prestigious Premier division of the Coast Soccer League and compete in the California Regional League. 

The young Latina soccer players from the Down Los Angeles Soccer Club seem to be resilient soccer players passionate and determined.

More importantly, they seem resolute in their efforts to change the face of future World Cup and soccer matches that take place on a national stage.

Here’s to hoping we see some of these young talented players giving that victory speech or holding the cup in the future. 

There Is Still A Lot Of Mystery About The First-Ever Latino To Play In The MLB

Entertainment

There Is Still A Lot Of Mystery About The First-Ever Latino To Play In The MLB

Public Domain

When it comes to crossing racial barriers in baseball, Jackie Robinson is the first name that comes to mind for many. However, before there was Robinson, there was Luis “Lou” Manuel Castro, the first Latino player in baseball’s modern era and the first to play in Major League Baseball. While his name might not be in the same regard or even known to many like Robinson, Castro earned the important distinction.

But unlike Robinson, Castro’s playing career was short, only lasting 42 games for the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1902 season where he batted for a .245 average. This might be why Castro isn’t as highly regarded or well known as the baseball Hall of Famer who broke baseball’s color line in 1947.

There might be another reason the name Lou Castro isn’t a household name. There are conflicting reports on where he was actually born.

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

There is some mystery when it comes to the legacy of Castro that many point to where he was really born. There are some reports that say Castro listed New York City as his birthplace later in his place but it’s widely agreed that he was born in 1876 in Medellin, Colombia. Castro would only stay in Colombia for eight years as his family and he would move to the U.S. due to the country’s political instability during that period. Castro’s family traveled by boat to the U.S. where they arrived in New York. 

According to Nick Martinez, a baseball historian who studied Castro’s life, a list of passengers he researched shows that an 8-year-old Castro was indeed on the S.S. Colon, which arrived in New York City on October 16, 1885, supporting the case that he did arrive from Colombia.

During his teen years, Castro would pick up baseball and by the age of 17 years old, he joined the Manhattan College baseball team. He was known to have quite the sense of humor among teammates and garnered the nickname “Judge.” He’d continue his playing career across multiple minor league clubs before getting his big break at the major leagues. Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack got a good look at Castro and offered him a try-out that resulted in him joining the Philadelphia Athletics.

While his run as a major league player was short with the Athletics, Castro still made enough of an impact to say he contributed to the club clinching the 1902 American League pennant. According to Remezcla, the rookie was invited to be a part of the team’s year-end banquet where gave an acceptance speech on behalf of some fellow teammate. The celebration even resulted in him singing some songs in Spanish. 

There is also the highly debated theory that Castro was somehow related to Venezuelan President Cipriano Castro. 

Credit: Public Domain

The theories don’t just stop with this birthplace, Castro has been linked to being related to Venezuelan President Cipriano Castro. He has both claimed and denied being related to the infamous dictator. It was known that Castro frequently claimed to have been either the nephew or cousin (or even son) of Castro, who had prior family and business connections back in Castro’s home country of Colombia. 

The legacy of Lou Castro might be a bit complicated but he led the way for other Latino ballplayers to break into the big leagues. 

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

While his playing days were short, Castro’s baseball life continued as he became the first Latino to “manage a club in Organized Baseball” after he retired as a player. Castro would eventually die in New York at the age of 64 on Sept. 24, 1941. 

While Castro’s career didn’t immediately lead to a burst of Latin players making their way to the big leagues, it would be another decade before Latino players started to make an impact on the field, he still paved a way for many Latinos to follow. 

Iconic Latin stars like Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Francisco Giants respectively, would rise to fame in the late ’50s. In 2018, the number of Latino MLB players hit 31.9 percent, the highest in 20 years. The number is a testament to the ever-growing popularity of the game in Latin countries and the door that Castro opened back in 1902.  

While his story might not be as well know as other baseball players, Lou Castro does have his place in history. 

Specifically, Latino history. 

READ: This Victory Makes Christian Villanueva The Fifth Mexican Baseball Player In MLB Ever To Hit Three Home Runs In A Single Game

This Team Of Synchronized Swimmers With Down Syndrome Were Denied Access To A Pool For Fear Of Contaminating Other Swimmers

Entertainment

This Team Of Synchronized Swimmers With Down Syndrome Were Denied Access To A Pool For Fear Of Contaminating Other Swimmers

sirenasespeciales / Instagram

Sirenas Especiales (Special Mermaids) is giving girls with Down Syndrome in Mexico a chance to show off their athletic abilities in synchronized swimming. The team and program were organized by Paloma Torres, a former synchronized swimmer from Peru, after she studied educational psychology. Her thesis was on the cognitive benefits of synchronized swimming. With that and a little patience, Sirenas Especiales was born.

Sirenas Especiales is tearing down the stigma and misinformation about people with Down Syndrome.

Credit: sirenasespeciales / Instagram

Coach Paloma Torres knew that people with Down Syndrome are often very creative and flexible. Those two characteristics are perfect for synchronized swimming so she knew that it would be a great idea to get a group of girls together.

However, Torres and Sirenas Especiales immediately faced pushback from local pools in Mexico City because of the girls’ Down Syndrome.

Credit: sirenasespeciales / Instagram

“I had to find a swimming pool where we could organize regular practices. At first, I couldn’t find anywhere. One pool even refused entry to my swimmers, saying that they might contaminate other swimmers! It was really disheartening at first — both for me and for the girls’ parents,” Torres told France24. “Finally, I found the Alberca Olímpica Francisco Márquez pool, which is located in southern Mexico City. I’ve been training the group there since 2011.”

The team overcame the initial mistreatment from local pools and have been competing in national and international competitions.

Credit: sirenasespeciales / Instagram

Their Instagram is filled with photos of the team holding medal from the various competitions they have participated in. They’ve competed all over Mexico and were recently at the PanAm games to cheer on Mexico’s national synchronizing team.

The team continues to grow with more girls and boys wanting to participate in synchronized swimming.

Credit: sirenasespeciales / Instagram

Torres currently trains about 20 swimmers between 14 and 30. There are three boys who are part of the team and 17 girls, according to France24. It seems clear that the swimmers enjoy their chance to show off their own athletic abilities.

The sport is doing more than just giving them something to do.

Este día tan especial Sirenas Especiales darán entrevista en Capital 21 Canal 21 en TV abierta, no se lo pierdan a las 10:35am en VIVO!!!!! FELIZ DÍA MUNDIAL DEL SINDROME DE DOWN Edith Perez Rocio Hernández Martínez Paloma Torres Montserrat Vega Triny Turcio Blanca Olivia Fontes Machado Araceli Vazquez Loredo Beatriz Mendoza Castañón China Li Lourdes Castellanos Daniel Perez Martinez

Posted by Sirenas Especiales on Tuesday, March 21, 2017

This sport helps participants improve their concentration and memory,” Torres told France24. “However, most importantly, this activity helps them integrate socially. They participate regularly in competitions both nationally and internationally, which sometimes include swimmers without disabilities. Our team has won about 50 medals. They become more social and their work is applauded. It’s also important for their families because some of them don’t think that these girls will make something of their lives.”

One thing Sirenas Especiales is doing to changing the narrative around disabilities one synchronized swim at a time.

Credit: Sirenas Especiales / Facebook

The swimmers are showing everyone that you can do anything you set your mind to. There is nothing that can keep them from participating in the sport that they love and enjoy.

Congratulations, swimmers.

We can’t wait to see what you do next.

READ: The Internet Was Having A Collective Sob Fest After A Video Of Young Disabled Man’s Reaction To Getting His First Job Goes Viral