“Because, by singing, hearts get happy,” sang the beer-fueled crowd at El Farolito last Sunday, before, during, and after Mexico beat the defending champion Germans, 1-0. The famed refrain from the Mexican song Cielito Lindo was a useful one to remember as the week wore on.
A week can be an eternity in World Cup days, and after Sunday’s celebration on Mission Street, the neighborhood has returned to normal. Watch parties at 5 a.m. are still held in one’s bed, splashing water on one’s eyes every now and then. Drinking sessions tend to kick-off around the 8 a.m. game, but can be interrupted by ill-timed responsibilities — such as having a job.
A week ago, Latin America’s dreams were mostly intact, but as of today, Brazil is not looking any better than it did four years ago, when the team cruised on its reputation until it couldn’t pretend any longer, and Germany checked its ego. Argentina is barely hanging in, and Peru and Costa Rica are already out.
And so we sing.
Contigo Peru, Ekaterimburgo pic.twitter.com/qT827pCP6O
— Gonzalo Zegarra Mulanovich (@GzegarraM) 21 de junio de 2018
For a while, and until not that long ago, Peruvians had accepted as a fact of life that we were never going to see our team compete in World Cup. Or never again, as our parents would remind us; Spain 1982 had been the end of that story. So we were beyond surprised when outside circumstances gave the team a shot at qualifying, and even more when they didn’t blow it and actually made the tournament.
For an expat, the hardest part of the process was not being in Lima to celebrate it. The longing was worse when no one understood what had just happened (I went on a solo bender). Second hardest was keeping composure when they played our anthem in Russia, or the unofficial “second anthem” recorded above. The song, composed for La Blanquirroja before the 1978 World Cup, waxes poetic about giving one’s life to the country, and “joining it in the soil” when one dies. So, good thing we made it before going six feet under.
Betrayed by the early start times, and the gray mornings of late, proud Peruvians with their crossed-flag jerseys had to hide them under a jacket or a sweater. With a hand on our forks and another one on our glasses, we were forced to swallow any “goal” celebration. Both at El Ají Restaurant and Rosamunde, no matter how teary-eyed the fan, it was hard to feel despair. Just being at the World Cup was a win.
Peru remains scoreless after two defeats but has regained some of its long-lost edge. Not that we need any excuse to unfurl our flags.
Watching one’s team at the biggest stage can enhance national pride, reaffirm collective values, and reveal the importance of diversity and representation. (Those dudes actually look like us). It can bring someone else’s nationalism to the conversation, as Switzerland’s goal-scorers, sons of exiled Albano-Kosovar parents, did with their hands after they stuck it to Serbia. It can also be a moment to live vicariously, cheering for someone else’s goals, as Peruvians once did, and some Americans are doing now.
Granit Xhaka: su padre fue preso político en la antigua Yugoslavia y luego se exiliaron a Suiza. Xerdan Shaqiri: sus padres dejaron su tierra natal durante la guerra de los Balcanes. Ambos son de origen albanokosovar, le dieron el triunfo ante Serbia y festejaron de esta manera. pic.twitter.com/MN8yWQVecB
— SportsCenter (@SC_ESPN) 22 de junio de 2018
Jumping from bar to bar around noon on Thursday, most spectators in front of a TV turned out to be white English-speakers, quite probably tech workers from around the world who call their sport football. At Panchita’s #2, a pupusería on 16th, the onlookers were Mexicans and Salvadorans. Out of the two groups, more than a few were not-so-subtly wishing Argentina ill against Croatia. And this happened, in most embarrassing fashion.
“They just always think they’re the best,” was the common explanation at Panchita’s. The schadenfreude that unites people across the world every time Argentina fails is to be explored in a later post.
For now, Trump piñatas and green jerseys are already out and about, as bars and eateries listed here are ready to open their doors Saturday morning, shortly before 8 a.m., just in time to sing some more. Canta y no llores.