To the Colombian Men in the World Cup Bar Who Treated Me Like One Of Their Own
Dear Bartender and Guy Sitting Next to Me,
I walked into the bar across from my office wearing a bright yellow Colombian national team shirt. We’d lost to Japan two hours before and I was stopping in over lunch to check out the game between Senegal and Poland: the other two teams in Group H. Colombia’s group. Our group.
Senegal was already up 1–0 when we arrived. Bartender, you were wearing a Colombian kit in navy blue, the same one my boyfriend’s mom had gotten me as my “first Colombian shirt” last year. You saw mine, nodded and said ‘ay!’ While you, man sitting next to me wearing a t-shirt with the team crest, smiled at me while conversing in Spanish on your phone.
My male coworker and I put in our afternoon beer orders, Poland took a shot on goal. The gasps and loud sighs of excitement simultaneously acquired and released rippled across the bar. And then you, guy next to me, you turned to me first, looked past the man I was with to meet my eyes, the bright green eyes of a very pale, red-headed girl and said “we need a draw. And when I say we… I mean we. Since we’re in this together.”
And just like that, you welcomed me into your country. Into this game. Into a ‘we.’ No questions about what my relationship to Colombia is. No demands that I profess my loyalty or prove an encyclopedic knowledge of soccer/football. No snide comments on how much I didn’t know. No condescending compliments on how much I did. No spanish test.
I love Colombia because I love a Colombian. One who’s in the middle of applying for yet another work Visa. Immigrating “the right way” to the tune of 3700 dollars and incalculable amounts of stress, anguish, and anger. My home country of the US of A doesn’t make the ‘we’ as easy as a nod of recognition in a bar. I’m sure you both know this.
And after watching what he’s had to go through as a latino immigrant in this country, I wouldn’t have blamed you for ignoring me completely. After seeing the jokes people make at your country’s expense, I wouldn’t have begrudged your indignance that my external relationship to Colombia can be put on before the game and removed before bed. After witnessing his anxiety every single freaking time he goes through border patrol and immigration at the airport, I would have understood any and all attempts to put me through the ringer — demanding I recite the starting lineup and the last five presidents, communicating only in rapid fire spanish, or even just asking where I’m really from with a tone indicating that somehow my place of birth could be an incorrect answer.
But you didn’t. You just watched football with me. Shared your World Cup and your country with me. Decided the more was the merrier and let your team be our team.
I just want to say thank you. I’m sorry. We are in this together. And I’m really glad you’re here.