PHOENIX – mezcla. In Spanish, the word means “blend” or “blend,” and it applies to many Hispanics in the United States who are trying to blend in with American culture while embracing theirs.
It’s a familiar challenge for Phoenix Rising players Arturo Rodriguez and Santi Moar, whose journeys seem especially poignant during Hispanic Heritage Month.
The pair are two of Rising’s eight Hispanic players, including Jon Bakero, David Loera, Edward Delgado, Luis Seijas, Ivan Gutierrez and Manuel Madrid. The squad impacted a team that is 17-3-5 and on Saturday became the first team in the USL Championship to advance to the 2021 playoffs.
Moar leads the team with 14 goals and is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league all season. He is also third in the league with 55 shots.
The Rising takes on the LA Galaxy II tonight in Los Angeles.
Rodriguez, a midfielder, was born in San Luis Potosí, a city of over 800,000 people in central Mexico. He lived there until the age of 15 when his family moved to the United States to seek work and a better life.
Rodriguez made his last two years of high school in Texas, a tough time for any American teenager. It was even more difficult for Rodriguez, who did not speak English when he arrived in Dallas.
He described the first day of his junior year as one of the most difficult of his life. He was a new student at Ranchview High and he did not have the opportunity to introduce himself to any of his teachers or peers due to the language barrier.
“Coming to my class without knowing anything and everyone looking at me,” How are we supposed to greet you if you don’t know? “, Said Rodriguez.
Virtually no one spoke Spanish in Ranchview, and school was difficult for Rodriguez until he could find people who could communicate with him in his native language.
Six years later, Rodriguez, now 21, believes he has absorbed both Mexican and American culture.
“I’m a bit of both,” Rodriguez said.
He cares about his Hispanic cultural values, especially those he learned from his family. Two important principles by which he continues to live are to be a good person to everyone, no matter who they are, and respect for elders.
“They helped me get to where I am today,” Rodriguez said.
Moar, a midfielder, grew up in a small farming town in Spain. Its roots in football were planted in Ordes, a municipality of around 12,600 inhabitants in the northwest region of the country, where playing the sport was common – even expected.
“When we were little, the only distraction we had was playing football,” Moar said. “Growing up on the streets and on the pitch, we had a lot of opportunities to play football.”
Many Sundays in Ordes consisted of three things for Moar: going to church, tasting Spanish specialties, and playing football. Local football teams played against each other on Sunday afternoons, and it was the tradition for the townspeople to attend the games.
Like Rodriguez, Moar arrived in the United States unable to speak English. His family was back in Spain and he traveled to the United States to play for Pfeiffer University, a small private college in North Carolina.
Although Moar and Rodriguez have adapted to American culture, they still find solace in speaking their native language, which connects Hispanics in a way that is hard to find elsewhere.
“It gives you the freedom to go to certain places and converse with certain people and find out more about those people,” Moar said.
Rodriguez and Moar gladly share Hispanic culture with their Rising teammates. Rodriguez enjoys dining with them at various Mexican restaurants and inviting them to try homemade Mexican specialties including enchiladas and spicy salsas.
Playing cards was a tradition in Moar’s family, and he introduced the custom to his teammates who happily participated, especially when traveling outside. During his childhood in Ordes, Moar played cards with his grandfather after most meals. For Moar, playing cards was more than a game, it was a time when he could learn more about the people around him at the table.
One of the most compelling aspects of the culture, Moar says, is the bond Hispanics make with each other.
“Communication. The relationship between people,” Moar said. “I think we have a very open relationship, with a lot of happiness and joy.”