For Bolivians everywhere, soccer is everything. From 1996 to 2003, Bolivian D.C. United soccer player Marco Etcheverry, also known as “El Diablo,” embodied the love and pride that Bolivians and other Latino immigrants in the metropolitan D.C. area have for the game.[i] In their article “Soccer and Latino Cultural Space: Metropolitan Washington Futbol Leagues,” geographers Marie Price and Courtney Whitworth explain that Bolivian immigrants in metropolitan D.C. use soccer to “carve out cultural space” for themselves.[ii] Through playing in a league or supporting their local professional Bolivian soccer player, Bolivian immigrants create impermanent transnational connections to home and other immigrants.
(Courtesy of Alchetron.com)
Marco Etcheverry was born in 1970 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.[iii] Etcheverry played professional soccer on Bolivian national teams in Chile and Spain and then eventually became a player for the American major league soccer team D.C. United in 1996.[iv] In 1998, he was named the most valuable player in the MLS.[v]
Etcheverry quickly became a role model for Bolivian immigrants and Latinos in the metropolitan area. In a Washington Post article from 1998, many Bolivians and Latino immigrants expressed how important Etcheverry was in their lives. Bolivian immigrant Willie Mercado, a painter from Arlington, Virginia, explained “He has given a big boost to soccer and to the Bolivian flag in America.”[vi] Jose Calles, a Central American immigrant working as a construction worker in Alexandria, said Etcheverry was the “pride of all Hispanics in Washington.”[vii]
Bolivian immigrants, amidst their long work days, follow local players like Etcheverry and participate in local soccer leagues in an effort to stay connected to their culture and Bolivians everywhere. Soccer is their avenue of transnationalism. Etcheverry told the Washington Post in 1998 that he wished to stay very connected to home and did not have plans to become a permanent U.S. citizen, which he still has not done today.[viii] Etcheverry embodies the way Price and Whitworth explain many Bolivian immigrants feel. They wish to remain connected to home.
[i] Major League Soccer, “Marco Etcheverry,” Major League Soccer, accessed November 10, 2016. http://www.mlssoccer.com/players/marco-etcheverry
[ii] Marie Price and Courtney Whitworth, “Soccer and Latino Cultural Space: Metropolitan Washington Futbol Leagues,” in Hispanic Spaces, Latino Places: Community and Cultural Diversity in Contemporary America, ed. Daniel Arreola (Austin: University of Texas, 2004), 168.
[iii] Major League Soccer, “Marco Etcheverry.”
[iv] Pamela Constable, “’The Pride Of All Hispanics’: United’s Etcheverry Is Bolivia’s Shining Star,” Washington Post, October 21, 1998, ProQuest.
[v] Major League Soccer, “Marco Etcheverry.”
[vi] Pamela Constable, “’The Pride Of All Hispanics’: United’s Etcheverry Is Bolivia’s Shining Star,” Washington Post, October 21, 1998, ProQuest.