Colombia’s unforgettable win over Mexico, 1-0, for the Copa America on Sunday silenced the loud roar of the elevated No. 7 train along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens with noise of its own. “Campeón! Colombia! Campeón!” a flag-waving older lady from Medellín shouted from the street at the end of the game. “She’s one of those patriots who never goes back,” countered her brother. “Tomorrow she’ll watch the news and say it’s too dangerous there.” But the homeland’s troubles didn’t stop anyone from turning the streets of Jackson Heights into a carnival of yellow, blue, and red flags complementing those of El Campín stadium in Bogotá, where the match was played.
Dubbed the “Peace Cup” this year, the fútbol tournament sparked debates about violence in Colombia early on when Canada and Argentina refused to play nice on Colombian soil. The stakes were high for the coffee-growing region, which demonstrated that when it comes to prioritizing, fútbol comes first. The tournament was calm—but the fans weren’t. The folks watching the stress-inducing game at the bars, nightclubs, and restaurants along Roosevelt Avenue transported themselves to Colombia when the game’s only goal—a header by Ivan Ramiro Cordoba—was scored 20 minutes into the second half. “Goooooool, hijueputa,” they shouted in a mix of South American fanaticism and classic Latino bravura.
When the final whistle blew, all the tension dissolved into elation. As if it were a midsummer New Year’s eve, Colombians in New York floured the streets and one another with white baking powder and traditional cumbia music, while dazzled subway commuters looked on. Dozens of cops tried to contain the devoted crowd that spilled over the sidewalks onto the streets like a gushing river. Eventually the police closed off some of the traffic and let the Colombians have their day.
“Even the police wanted us to win,” repeated one smiling Caleña to whoever would listen. “They knew it was important for peace.” Peace or no peace, it goes to show that even a battered country can get up, walk, and even kick some ass.