Tag Archive | "Griselda Ramirez"

Ethnic America Goes to the Polls

Reporters from the New York Torch visited polling places in the New York City and Jersey City area to ask first-time voters from ethnic communities about their experiences, opinions and hopes for America.

Click on the pictures to know their stories.

Reporting by Mea Ashley, Yvonne Bang, Magdalene Castro, William Denselow, Shaukat Hamdani, Colleen McKown, Michael Orr, MaryAlice Parks, Nia Phillips, Griselda Ramirez, Rebecca Sanchez and Charlotte Stafford.
Edited by Jay Devineni, Lorelai Germain, Stephen Jiwanmall, Ntshepeng Motema and Christina Thorne.
Complied by Dhiya Kuriakose.

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Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, ordinary New Yorkers are stepping up to help those most affected by the storm. Michael Orr has the story of one group in Queens doing their part.

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Evacuees of Hurricane Sandy

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Astoria Residents React to Hurricane Sandy

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Hurricane Sandy in NYC

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Soccer at Dyckman Park is about culture for Mexicans

Soccer at Dyckman Park is about culture for Mexicans

by Griselda Denise Ramirez, Mexican Beat Reporter — 

Nearly 36 years ago, when Julio Sierra was washing dishes in a lower Manhattan restaurant, he longed to play soccer just as he had when he was a young man in Puebla, Mexico. But he found that there were no established Mexican soccer leagues in New York City.

Sierra and his friends, “paisanos,” he calls them, would gather informally in Central Park to play a “cascarita,” or scrimmage game as a distraction from the day’s work. They met to play on Sundays, usually their days off. During one of those scrimmages in 1976, Sierra and the others decided to inaugurate a league of their own. The first tournament was held on the Sunday of the week of September 16 – Mexican Independence Day. That four-team tournament was played in Inwood Hill Park.

Today, the league they started, Liga Mexicana de Futbol en Nueva York, is thriving with 42 soccer teams — some representing towns in Mexico. Sierra said about 85 percent of the players are Mexican, mostly from the state of Puebla. There are a total of 924 athletes who gather to play soccer every Sunday during the six-month season that begins in March.

“It’s much easier to organize a soccer league than it is to organize a political party or religious event,” said Sierra.

Sierra’s league is one of eight Mexican soccer organizations in New York, according to a list provided by the Mexican Consulate. Games are held at three soccer fields – two at Ferry Point Park in the Bronx and one at Dyckman Park in Manhattan. Each player pays $40 to play Sundays during the season.

“There are more players than fields,” said Sierra. “When leagues are given access to fields they have to take good care of them.”

Growing up in the small town of Piaxtla, Sierra recalls playing soccer on dirt fields.  He said the children would create a soccer ball out of rags. Sierra said they would use two rocks as goal posts.

“When you watch children play soccer in small towns in Mexico, you can see how soccer runs in their blood,” said Sierra.

Sierra left his college education in Puebla for New York City. He said many people in his town left home in search of better-paid jobs. Sierra arrived to the City at the age of 20 in 1971, initially working in restaurants as a dishwasher. He retired this year at the end of August as a maintenance manager at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

Sierra said he never imagined the league he helped start 36 years ago is still standing.

“Soccer unites families and after so many years we continue to kick a soccer ball,” said Sierra.

On Sunday Sept. 9 the Liga Mexicana held its first round of semi-final matches at a soccer field along the Hudson River at Dyckman Park. The league comes to a halt at the end of September. Dyckman Park has been the league’s home since 1978 when New York City Department of Parks & Recreation gave them access to the soccer field.

Dyckman Park’s soccer field transforms into little Mexico. Sierra said the games are social gatherings for soccer players and their families. On Sunday, a band of three soccer fans clasped the cymbals, played an accordion and struck the drums to create “norteño” music, traditional music from the northern states in Mexico.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered around the field, some cheered for either “Vista Hermosa” or “Guadalupano” – two teams vying to reach the championship. After 90 minutes, the teams tied 1-1. Both teams faced each other for a second round of semi-final matches the weekend of Sept. 16 when “Vista Hermosa” defeated “Guadalupano” 4-2. The following weekend, “Vista Hermosa” became the champion of the Premier Azteca Division after beating “Matamoros.”

Last year’s league champion, the Chinantla, lost against Matamoros in the second-round of semi-finals this year.

Bertin Cruz, a sugar plant machine operator, is the team’s coach for 18 years. Cruz played on the Chinantla when he first arrived to New York in 1988. The team is named after the province he is from in southern Puebla.

“Our team’s colors (burgundy and purple) symbolize the colors of clothing used by our patron in Chinantla,” said Cruz. “We affectionately call him Father Jesus — like our ancestors used to call him.”

A few families station their food carts at both ends of the soccer field to grill tacos and quesadillas for people who get hungry watching games. Juana Vaquero and her family are from Quaxaca, Mexico. They have been firing up the grill of their food cart at the soccer field for 14 years.

“We like to be here among the people and we also like watching the game,” said Vaquero. “We go for the Matamoros and Chinantla teams.”

Sierra and Cruz, like most of the older “paisanos,” share a life-long passion for soccer, tracing back to the days they played in their towns in Mexico.

Cruz sat on a bucket next to a taco cart as he ate a couple of tacos of “adobada,” or seasoned pork meat. He recalled leaving his job as a science teacher in Puebla because his wife got sick and was in need of a kidney transplant, which she has been living with for 16 years. He left his profession back home, but not his love for soccer.

“As a boy (in Chinantla) during the 60’s and 70’s, I saw the young guys play,” said Cruz. “That’s where I started to play and it continues to be my favorite sport.”

Children of Mexican-origin born in New York are seen wearing Mexican soccer jerseys of popular teams such as the “Chivas,” “Pumas” and “Santos,” Sierra said. For the most part they are not seen wearing a Red Bulls or U.S. national team jersey, he said.

“Mexican roots are that strong,” Sierra said. “Through the game of soccer parents teach their children the importance of maintaining their culture.”



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