"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." –Donald Trump
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Presidency, it went without saying that he would be a different type of candidate. He was outspoken and brash, which many thought excluded him from running. But as the rumors swirled around him in June of 2016, he stepped to the podium in the atrium of Trump Tower and announced the beginning of his campaign. With every camera in the room trained on him, he went deep into the verbal quagmire.
His statement on immigrants was seen as a warning shot against all people of color in this country. Rather than continuing the conflicted immigration policy of the Republican Party, Trump would be one the harshest and most outspoken Presidents on the subject. Trump’s views and speeches would paint immigrants with a broad brush, slapping insults and generalizations onto those that have come to the country from elsewhere, both illegally and legally.
But that broad brush ignored much of the truth about its target. Most immigrants are hardworking people struggling to make a better life for themselves and their families. The journey to get here was long and treacherous and those that walked that path did it for the opportunities offered by the United States. They left their homes, their countries, and their families bringing only what they could carry and the memories of their homeland. Those memories stay with them, as they integrate and grow into functioning parts of our economy, our neighborhoods, and our way of life.
Talk to Mario Alcalá and he’ll talk about his family’s history and soccer, going back to the 1930’s in San Jerónimo, Jalisco in Mexico. He looks to the beginning of his family tree, going back from the living to the now-departed generations of his family, and the roots stretch deep into the soil of his family’s native country. Those generations of farmers and tradesmen who toiled in the hills of central Mexico, same in genetics and their love of the beautiful game.
Mario Alcalá is the president of Inocentes FC, the UPSL affiliate in Fort Worth, Texas. This year, the club began play in the North Division of the Central Conference. But this was not the club’s first year. Inocentes has existed in the United States since the 1970s. A team of immigrants from the same town in Mexico, now settled in Fort Worth, created the team to compete in the local Hispanic leagues. With their natural chemistry and common heritage, their teams were great and won multiple championships in every league they competed in. Alcalá’s father and uncle played on that team in 1979 and to this day continue to influence the players that play for Inocentes.
Inocentes is not only a family because of genetics. The team strives to connect itself to its history as much as possible. Alcalá sees the club as a family heirloom. His grandfather, uncles, father, brothers, and himself have all played for the team and he hopes his children continue the tradition.
And that generational connection isn’t limited to Alcalá. Many of the players now are playing for the club that their father played for in the 90s. Those family trees have been brought together by soccer. It’s a tradition. It spans borders, cultures, and nationalities.
This year has started well for Inocentes FC. The club is 1-1-0 so far and tied for first place in their division. In some ways, the history of the club is in direct conflict with the idea of Inocentes being an expansion club this year in the UPSL. Generations of players have worn the kit, yet this year it debuted in a league on the rise.
But maybe this is the perfect way to see this team. A team of immigrant families, trying to make good in a new environment. They’ve bonded together to try and succeed in a place full of those that would tear them down. And when they succeed it will be because of hard work, talent, and perseverance against all odds.
In a nation split over how it views immigrants, Inocentes is the perfect example of what immigrants can accomplish if given just enough space to make good on the promise of the American dream. They didn’t bring guns and drugs to this country, just a love of soccer and the desire to be great.
Author: Dan Vaughn