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LIMA, PERU, 25 JULY 2004
Catching Up, Part I: Latin America
A post–Euro 2004 hiatus has left The Global Game with reams of paper atop its blonded desk, representing a backlog of news items and deferred observations. Sadly, we have neglected Copa América, which finished today with Brazil's victory in penalty kicks over Argentina. In 88 meetings, Brazil has won 34 times, Argentina 33, with 21 draws. Copa América is the oldest continental football tournament,

Haitians love the Brazilian team, as they demonstrate following a victory in the 2002 World Cup finals. (AP)
the first official event dating to 1917, but the tournament's reputation has slipped over the years, and Brazil this year fielded its "B" side (though stars Edu and Kleberson and the others are hardly "B"-list players). Each tournament we are impressed by Brazil's global appeal and by the players' status as ambassadors. Brazil president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has offered to escort the senior side (Ronaldo and Ronaldinho on board this time) to Port-au-Prince on 18 August for a friendly against Haiti. The match, which is appearing less likely now due to security concerns, would serve as an extension of Brazil's commitment to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), to which Brazil has contributed 1,200 troops. The Brazilians have already brought 1,000 soccer balls and kit. Admission to the friendly was to have been granted by an exchange of weapons the previous week, but "that proposal was abandoned after diplomats realized it would probably stimulate trafficking in guns and enrage Haitians by giving preferential treatment to armed gang members" (Larry Rohter, "Brazil Is Leading a Largely South American Mission to Haiti," New York Times, 1 August).

As for Copa América, and some of the sides involved, hosts Peru advanced to the quarterfinals, losing to Argentina. Peru last hosted the competition in 1957, and the 2004 edition marked something of a turning point following some 20 years of armed resistance led by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and Tupac Amaru guerrillas. (See also the website of Peru's Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación and of the related photo exhibition, "Yuyanapaq: Para recordar.") This year's event was spiced by a one-day nationwide strike called midway through the event by the Confederación General de Trabajadores del Peru (CGTP), the country's largest labor organization. Protesting the free-market policies of the continent's least-popular leader, President Alejandro Toledo, the action resulted in 76 arrests, although the Associated Press characterized the strike's impact as minimal (Monte Hayes, "Peruvians Largely Ignore Call for Strike," 14 July). The government mobilized 93,000 police to make its views clear; former president and opposition Aprista Party leader Alan Garcia, however, supported the strike. More disruptive was the shutdown of Aero Continente, one of Peru's two major air carriers, when its insurance contract was not renewed. At least one journalist—the BBC's Tim Vickery—had to change his travel plans.

Football spectacles in Latin America always seem to raise the specter of the past,
Click for ReVista website
ReVista magazine spotlights Chile and the Chilean national stadium in its spring issue.
when governments have greatly overreached, suspending regard for human rights and using sports or stadia as sites for their evil deeds. Previous excesses in Chile and Mexico both made news during the tournament. In its spring issue, ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America includes photography and a recollection of the Chilean national stadium's time as a prison and torture center in the fall of 1973 (Katherine Hite, "Chile's National Stadium: As Monument, as Memorial"). On 11 September of that year, military forces overthrew socialist president Salvador Allende, installing Augusto Pinochet as dictator. Soldiers ransacked the home of Nobel Prize–winning poet Pablo Neruda—whose 100th birthday was commemorated on 12 July—leading to bedridden Neruda's famous remark: "The only weapons here are words." Following Carmen Luz Parot's documentary Estadio Nacional (2001), the stadium has been turned into a still-functioning memorial, of which Hite writes:

The National Stadium . . . is clearly a cultural icon of the nation. As a site of traumatic memory, the Stadium thus poses unique opportunities as well as challenges. With its 80,000-seat capacity, the Stadium is the site of the most important soccer matches in the country (and a World Cup site in 1962), immensely popular musical concerts, and other athletic and cultural events. It is extremely "inhabited." Tens of thousands constantly come and go through the stadium's gates. The fate of the Stadium as monument does not risk the physical, social and cultural relegation common to many conventional historic monuments.

Nor will the monument assume the quality of some static, impenetrable granite object commemorating fallen heroes. Too often, writes Chilean cultural scholar and critic Nelly Richard, a monument represents "the nostalgic contemplation of the heroic; the reification of the past in a commemorative block that petrifies the memorial as inert material." In the stadium, citizens will travel in and through the monument, making relegation, distance, and inertia far more difficult. Locating the accounts of victims and their families within the monument necessarily engages the representations of the past atrocities with the vibrant, emotional lived experiences of the present.

Mexico's ignominy occurred on 2 October 1968 when, 10 days before the start of the Olympic Games, government forces opened fire on student protesters in the La Plaza de las Tres Culturas at Tlatelolco in Mexico City, killing several hundred (see Tim Weiner, "When the Olympic Games Turned Political," New York Times, 24 July). Luis Echeverría, the interior minister in 1968 and later Mexico's president, was indicted on 23 July for his alleged role in authorizing additional murders of demonstrators in 1971. In between, of course, Mexico hosted the World Cup finals. But, according to Weiner's article in the Times, some historians date the end of Mexico's one-party rule to the events of 1968. The change culminated in 2000 with the election of current president Vincente Fox, who has his own problems.

Colombia, which finished fourth in Copa América, nearly had to surrender the tournament in

Yet another photo of besparkled South American terraces, this time from Once Caldas. (www.oncecaldas.com.co)
2001, as it had the World Cup in 1986 (to Mexico) due to spates of drug-related killings. But its positive showing over the last few weeks and the unlikely triumph of Manizales-based Once Caldas in the Copa Libertadores—over Boca Juniors in a penalty shootout on 1 July—perhaps give the nation's football new optimism. Once Caldas drew on its location in the Andes (the final home tie with Boca took place 7,095 feet above sea level) and fervent home support to give Colombia only its second Libertadores title. "You have given the country infinite happiness," president Alvaro Uribe told the team.

Finally, ties between the United States—which turned down a Copa América place to concentrate on CONCACAF World Cup qualifying—and its Latin neighbors have been in focus. Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl concluded the magazine's four-part series on globalization in sports by contrasting the efforts of the National Football League and Major League Soccer to win over non-American fans ("Football vs. Fútbol," 5 July). MLS, of course, has accepted Jose Vergara's proposal for Chivas USA, to be based outside Los Angeles. Wahl writes:

The plan is rich in irony: MLS will be creating its own regional type of globalization by harnessing the power of globalism's supposed bugbear, fervent nationalism. In the most multinational of sports, Chivas's appeal is simple: It has never signed a non-Mexican player in its 97-year history. "We want to spread the passion of being all [Mexican] nationals," Vergara says, "and, of course, of always giving everything you have. That's how Mexicans play—and how Chivas USA is going to play."

Vergara certainly seems forward-thinking, attracted in the near-term by the 9.5 million people in Los Angeles County, of whom 45 percent are Latinos. Vergara also has been cited for uplifting women in the Mexican workplace, having created business and self-empowerment training centers solely for women. "In Latin American countries we have wasted women in the workforce because of our macho education," Vergara tells Wahl ("Have Ambition, Will Travel," SI.com, 30 June). Certainly Chivas will encounter cultural differences in its new venture. An interesting distinction likely will come in the area of branding. As the Financial Times noted recently (John Authers, "Why Mexicans Mix Cement with Football," 8 July), Chivas currently wears the logo of Cemento Tolteca. Other Mexican clubs, too, are endorsed by cement makers, well aware that "in Mexico, and in much of the rest of the developing world, people buy cement one bag at a time, usually from small hardware stores. That means it must be sold and marketed as a consumer product, not in bulk from business to business, as it is in developed economies." Women sometimes decide what cement to buy, showing again that preconceived notions often mislead. | back to top