Mexico’s fans at Copa América have two messages: viva El Tri, and dump Trump

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Mexico matches on American soil are special affairs, and ahead of Monday nights tilt against Venezuela the USs most passionate fanbase let its voice be heard

Donald Trump is making a campaign stop in Houston on Friday. He was already in the city on Monday in fright-mask form, courtesy of Sergio Prez, one of several Mexican fans at the teams Copa Amrica match against Venezuela who made their feelings clear about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Trump right now, everybody doesnt like him, Prez said, his voice muffled from behind the rubber mask. He posed for pictures next to a unicorn, a clown and a man holding a placard that said: Trump I brought my birth certificate just in case. #FuckTrump.

Hours before kick-off, supporters gathered to drink beer, listen to music and mingle in the 95F (35C) heat at the fan zone outside NRG Stadium, a smattering of burgundy-clad Venezuelan fans visible amid a canopy of thousands in Mexicos green, like apples in an orchard.

Some Venezuelans brandished placards assailing the countrys president, Nicols Maduro. For a few Mexican fans, denigrating Trump was a jocular expression of pride and national identity. A Trump chinga tu madre (Trump fuck your mother) sign was part of the theatre of going to the match, akin to sporting a lucha libre mask, a tricolour wig or an XXL sombrero.

Sergio
Sergio Prez, center left, dons a Trump mask. Photograph: Tom Dart for the Guardian

In Mexico everybody hates Donald Trump, said Mauricio Rossier, his face hidden by a blue wrestling hood. The 42-year-old lives in Mexico City. Mexico games on US soil are special occasions, he said, especially when the neighbours meet, as they did last October when Mexico won, 3-2.

For that occasion, Fox Sports and TV Azteca produced promotional videos using Trumps infamous comments about Mexican immigrants spliced with match action.

The US and Mexico have now reached the quarter-finals of this months competition and could yet have an unlikely meeting in the final. Sport and politics I think are separate things, but it can show the power that Mexicans have in the US, Rossier said. If you go to any other match, its very different. Mexico puts some special feeling into the games.

The US team may have a loyal fan base, but thanks to Mexico they are not the most popular national side in their own country. On 9 June, more than 83,000 saw El Tri beat Jamaica at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The crowd for Mondays 1-1 draw in Houston was 67,319, some 16,000 more people than saw the US beat Paraguay in Philadelphia last week.

That is not only down to different sporting priorities, but also demographic realities that Trump apparently wishes to reverse.

Alex
Alex Ramrez, who said of Trump: Not all Mexicans are whatever he says. Photograph: Tom Dart for the Guardian

El Tri draw well here in Houston, a city that claims to be the USs most diverse metropolitan area, in a minority-majority state: its home to more than 10 million Hispanic people, 39% of the Texas population. In 2000 that figure was 32%.

Not all Mexicans are whatever he says. So whenever Mexico wins it sends a good message to him, said Alex Ramrez, a 24-year-old dressed as an Aztec warrior. He lives in Houston and was born in Mexico.

Im proud of my country and Im proud to live in the US because its a great country too, he said. Ive been here for 17 years and sometimes we do get, like, a little bit discriminated because of where we come from and were proud of our country.

Some people dont like it here when we take pride in our country, tell us to go back to where we come from. But the US is a great country, we like being here, theres lots of opportunities to live great; but we also cant forget about where we come from.

Jos Agurre, a Houstonian originally from Mexico, said that Hispanic people come to the US to work hard and seek better opportunities, but sometimes face discrimination and danger. The United States is supposed to be the best country in the world. Sometimes I think its not true, he said, referring to the massacre in Orlando and the divisive rhetoric that has followed. Everybody looks, whos the guy, where is he from?

Shortly before kick-off, after fans had entered the arena through metal detectors and past the kind of concrete barriers seen at airports and high-profile political sites, there was a brief pause in the boisterous atmosphere: a period of silence to mark the tragedy in Florida.

United with Orlando Embrace Diversity flashed up on the big screens. A rainbow flag was held aloft in the stands near the halfway line. It was a silent gesture of empathy at an intensely tribal, partisan occasion; a reminder of how sports tournaments stress differences yet celebrate commonalities, portraying an idealised form of multiculturalism.

Earlier, Rudolph Barajas strode through a parking lot wearing a green Mexico top, the Stars and Stripes, and an Uncle Sam hat and beard. Being Mexican American is good because you get both home turfs, he said.

Rudolph
Rudolph Barajas and his brother, Jos Olivas. Football unites the people, it doesnt matter what race you are. Photograph: Tom Dart for the Guardian

Born in the US to Mexican parents, his attachment to both countries does not cause ambivalence whenever they meet on the pitch. I root for the United States. Because I love this country and I support my team, the 22-year-old student said.

[Football] unites the people, it doesnt matter what race you are. If your parents are from Mexico or the United States, its a good little chemistry going on, but I like when they play each other because it fires up the house.

While his brother, Jos Olivas, a 23-year-old electrician, suspects Trump might win the election, Barajas is not so sure. No, because I have the right to vote so I can make a difference, he said. They say if voting was like a soccer game, Trump wouldnt win because we would all come vote and come together. Thats what soccer does.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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