The following is a post by Nancy Flores-Sánchez, a member of the BIPOC Advisory Board, the Timbers Army, the Rose City Riveters, and the 107IST.
“Living on borders and in margins, keeping intact one's shifting and multiple identity and integrity, is like trying to swim in a new element, an 'alien' element.” — Gloria E. Anzaldúa
“If you didn't grow up like I did then you don't know, and if you don't know it's probably better you don't judge.” — Junot Díaz
I’d like to preface this post by saying a few things. First, when I refer to “we” I am not speaking for all undocumented Latinx people in PDX. However, I know the proceeding experiences are common amongst many of us. Second, just because I only detail one story, doesn’t mean it’s the only one. I am not going to list them all here. Third, when I refer to you, I am speaking to those that caused harm. You know who you are; if you don’t, continue reading. If you find yourself getting defensive, then you’re probably included in that “you.” Fourth, being a part of a marginalized community, such as the Latinx community, does not mean a person can’t be an oppressor. Lastly, there were some situations where accusations were made that have not been verified. This post is not about that. This is bigger than that.
If you want to be in the TA...
Instead of creating a welcoming space for our BIPOC community, which should have been an easy ask with a high return, while taking a minimal amount of effort, we created a hostile environment. An environment which many of the potential Timbers fans that attended that night will not want to return to.
This exclusive and harmful behaviour started before Wednesday. While trying to find tickets I came across a thread on FB, where many of you were demanding that Club América fans not wear their team's gear in the North End because the rules “are *literally* printed on the ticket. Don’t be a dick.” This was followed by several ignorant comments like:
“tell me you just moved here and haven’t been to a timbers game, without telling me”
“Any jabronies acting like victims because you can’t wear your CA kit into the home supporters section at an away game, is clearly a troll. This is the stadium policy, and VERY common even at the MLS level. They know it’s the norm, they just don’t think they’ll get showered with batteries and rocks for it here in Liberal Wypypo Portland. Let’s show them they’re wrong and throw batteries into the stadium from the roof of the old Oregonian building.”
“If you are a Club América supporter trying to play footy tourist for the night, Nuh uh, take your candy ass back to your own supporter section where you belong. We aren’t here for your entertainment or your IG story and we want nothing more than to destroy your team. If that makes me Exclusive. Welp, I guess thems the breaks. I’ve been called worse.”
“We are just as inclusive as you’ve heard when it comes to race, sexual orientation and the like. Not allowing opposing fans in the dedicated supporters section is unrelated to that. It’s protocol in practically every stadium in the world.”
Well ok then. There’s a whole lotta toxic masculinity with some casual racism thrown in to unpack. I have said this so many times, this match is different. The same rules do not apply.
A mix of anger and straight up disappointment
The right to belong: You’re assuming that many of these fans “just moved here.” You are already labeling them as outsiders when, in fact, the majority live here, have lived here for a long time, and will continue to live here. You are “othering” a whole group of marginalized people that are your literal neighbors and who are already part of the community.
You are assuming that these fans know the rules; they just don’t want to follow them. Many of these fans have not been to a Timbers game even though they love fútbol (probably more than you do) because we don’t make it accessible or welcoming for them. So no, they probably don’t know the rules. You are also assuming that every fan in the stadium reads their ticket, can read their ticket or can understand what the ticket says.
All América fans that want to wear their gear are trolls. Or maybe, maybe they’re just fans that for once have their team here and want to show their pride. You are assuming these fans are the ones that throw batteries. Which means you are still assuming, they are not from here. You also want to throw batteries at them.
You are again, again, assuming that all the América fans at this game will be from other places. You are repeatedly showing that you see us as “others.” “Take your candy ass back to your own supporter section where you belong.” Again with the insistence that we don’t belong. Also, what about the fans that support both teams? Trust me when I tell you that América fans are not entertained by you, they are not impressed and they most certainly won't put you on their IG story when they have Memo Ochoa on the field. I mean, come on.
“We are just as inclusive as you’ve heard when it comes to race, sexual orientation and the like.“: Are you though? I mean there is a reason there are hardly any BIPOC supporters at games. This game showed that it’s not for a lack of BIPOC soccer fans, so it must be something else. *I wonder what it could be, she types sarcastically*. This is not the same as the Sounders coming to town. Again, a lot of these fans are not visitors. They live here.
The statements posted in this thread reflect the feelings that a lot of TA members had. These feelings are conducive to the unprovoked hostility some América fans received. These situations are what prompted me to speak as to why this game was full of microaggressions and racism.
Justifying bad behavior
América fans are obnoxious.
(mostly true) but so what?
They throw bags of piss at away supporters in their stadium.
Are we at Azteca?! Did I magically become a U.S. citizen and am suddenly able to travel to Mexico?! Are these the Azteca supporters that are here? Are we the Chivas? Is this El Clasico? No? Ok then, that’s irrelevant.
This is soccer they should be used to this.
This is soccer in a different country. No, we are not used to gatekeeping drunk white supporters.
All of these statements show your ignorance.
The never-ending fight against assimilation and the internal struggle it creates
For myself, and many others like me, having this Liga MX team here means so much more than your privileged, fully able-to-roam-the-world-selves could ever imagine. We were taken away, without any agency or choice, from our homeland by our parents for a better life. We arrived in a country that continuously undervalues, oppresses, abuses, judges and threatens us. We grew up trying to prove that we belong here while being surrounded by a dominant culture that in no way reflects our own. Because of this, many of us internalized the racism that we experienced and became ashamed of our heritage.
I remember many Latinx students in high school making fun of our own music saying it sounded like “polka” music, in front of white peers and then dancing all night to it at the next Quince1. I remember being ashamed of the delicious corundas2 my mom made for my 13th birthday party because my “friends” thought it was weird and gross. I remember many of us being ashamed of our families' accents, of their inability to conform to the social norms of the country they brought us to. Now I am only ashamed that I ever felt that way.
While we were being made to feel ashamed of our heritage by the white people that surround us, we were also being berated by our own people for “sounding too white” and listening to “white music.” “Are you even Mexican?” was a common question I was asked.
We were placed in a lose-lose situation that many of us have yet to recover from. It took many more years to begin to dissolve the internalized racism we have developed. It took even longer still to accept that we can in fact, be both proud of our Mexican heritage and proud to be an Oregonian. Which means we can be both die-hard América fans (Club Atlético Morelia for me) and die-hard Timbers fans.
Yet even though we are proud of our cross-cultural identity, it seems that we can’t escape being shamed by white peers. There were several instances before, during and after Wednesday's match, where we were once again reminded that we are not accepted by you. You claim to accept us and to want to include us, yet the one chance you got to truly show your appreciation and acceptance, you only used to remind us that there is still a dominant culture that refuses to accept another. Not only that, but you attempted to make us choose. Do you have any idea how fucking harmful that is? No. You don’t because you don’t have to. This isn’t a choice between whatever state you transplanted from or Oregon scenario. This is our culture, our entire being.
As insignificant as it may seem to you, telling us we aren’t real Timbers fans if we are also fans of our home country team, is you telling us that part of us isn’t valid. You are basically telling us we can’t be both, when it took us years to accept that we are.
By asking us to choose a team and stick to it, you are demanding us to assimilate or risk being excluded. Maybe it wasn’t your intent to make us feel that way, well guess what? Intent doesn’t matter.
Gatekeeping in the TA
Yelling at children that are América fans, children, is exclusive, racist, and just generally shitty behavior.
Why? Because you are targeting a community that lives here, some of which root for the Timbers throughout the year. Why should you let them sit in “your” section? Because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many of them and they call PDX home too. This is their city, they are not visitors. Chill TF out and let others enjoy themselves.
If they aren’t harassing you (no cheering loudly isn’t harassing) then let them be. Better yet, be happy for all of us. We finally have something that is from home. Something familiar. We felt this deep in our hearts. You do not and will never understand the pain that goes along with not being able to go where you are with your people...where you are not the “minority.”
This match had the promise to be a tiny relief from that pain for so many of us. You should have had some empathy. The majority of the América fans I saw in the TA section were families. The only harassing I saw in that section was from Timbers fans.
Right now, I bet many of you are scoffing at this. You’re probably thinking this is an overreaction or you’re thinking that América fans deserve the hate or you’re saying “whatever get over it.” Maybe you’re thinking “well, I didn’t see any of us starting anything. It was all the América fans crossing the line.” Or “They know what it’s like; they’re fine.” Perhaps you’re justifying this behavior by pointing out that this is a huge game and this is to be expected. Maybe you’re thinking some variation of pics or it didn’t happen. Some of you might be thinking, nah we’re not like that.
If you’re thinking any of that right now, you’re not fucking listening.
Who created that energy?
This wasn’t a normal game. This wasn’t Seattle or even LAFC.
This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for so many of us. I am not an América fan, in fact I dislike them very, very much, but I jumped at the chance to attend this game. Not only because I wanted to see the Timbers, but because this was a tiny bit of home that was coming to me when I can’t go home.
One of my friends mentioned how their dad is a die-hard América fan and so is his younger brother. His brother grew up idolizing América because of his dad. His dad talks about experiencing a game at Estadio Azteca, and his son can only imagine what it would be like to be at the famed stadium. That experience can only happen in his imagination because he cannot go back home either. This match was like getting a tiny taste of what it would be like to be surrounded by your community instead of a lot of white people for once. An infinitely small glimpse into a home match at Azteca. For his dad, it was nostalgic, it was almost, almost like home. Until he was confronted with “why are you cheering for them?!” and several middle fingers in his face.
My friend's family absolutely loves futbol. They live and breathe it; even so, his dad or his brothers have never been to Timbers game before. They might not come back. My friend said if they and many other people from that game do go back for a regular Timbers game “They will already be expecting hostility; they will be on alert" and who created that energy?
Yes, América fans do instigate and troll, but tell me why with the many, many instances that Sounders fans have done the same, you managed to find a way to deescalate the situation to avoid fights, but with these fans you couldn’t?
It could have been so beautiful
Why is it that we have collaborations with Chicago fans, but we couldn’t find a way to reach out and collaborate with fans from our own community that we supposedly want to include more?
Why is it that you can arrange a supporters match against Seattle, our most hated rival, but you couldn’t manage to create something similar for América fans? (Yes COVID, but I am sure something else could have been arranged.)
Why is it that you can find ways to bond with other fans from different states, but you couldn’t find a way to do the same with the América fans from your own city?
Is it that difficult to find a way to include Latinx fans?
This team isn’t even in our league, we literally have no rivalry with them. We will probably never play them again. So why didn’t you try to make it a great experience for these fans?
You could have gained life-long supporters. You could have finally made the TA a little bit less white, why didn’t you try?
You seek to find ways to fundraise for the Latinx community, but you didn’t capitalize on the one event that not only could’ve unified our communities, but could have also raised money for DACA students or the other Latinx organizations you know. You didn’t even think of a way to turn this into an event that would have welcomed the Latinx community for once. Why didn’t you think of that?
How can you continue to say that you are going to do the work to learn about racism, oppression and do better, and then contribute to this situation?
Some of you have been at the protests regularly, you have stated over and over again that we need to listen to the oppressed. Is this only true when you aren’t the ones being oppressive?
What is it that you hate so much about América fans? What was it about them that made you instantly label them as outsiders? What prevented you from seeing them as members of your own community? What is it that makes you treat them worse than Seattle, the team you supposedly hate the most?
Think about it.
Go ahead and have a conversation with yourself about these questions. Don’t come to me for answers. It is not my job to teach you. I have explained to you more than I needed to. It is up to you whether you are going to be defensive, call me all sorts of things, believe that I am just angry and overreacting or if you’re going to really take in what I said. And please, please do not come to me with apologies and sympathy, the last thing us BIPOC people need to do after we are wronged, is comfort you when you feel guilty. Deal with your guilt by actively listening and educating yourself, not by telling me how sorry you are and/or how bad you feel. Because honestly, I don’t have the energy to care anymore.
If anything were to happen between Timbers supporters and América fans at Estadio Azteca, it would not justify the behaviour of the TA here nor does it negate anything I have written. Any Timbers supporters that traveled to Azteca would be in a much, much different situation than the América fans we saw here. Traveling Timbers fans are not an oppressed people trying hard to become valued members of the local community near Estadio Azteca.
The América fans at Azteca are not the members of our community. It would not be the same situation.
1 Quinceañera or quinceaños: a latin version of a sweet-15 celebration
2 Mexican type of tamale, but wrapped in a long corn plant leaf, and folded, making a triangular shape or spherical shape