Latinos in cycling: We don't die, we multiply


A still from the movie Blood In Blood out, a cinamatic masterpiece that drove my tasteful fashion choices for the better part of a decade.




As always, I feel like should apologize for the length of this post, or at least for the slow beginning. If you want, just skip the first two paragraphs, and get to meaty/cycling part.


Latinos are now the largest minority in the United States. I'm talking about population numbers, not the physical size of latinos...although the last time I found myself in LA, I saw plenty of my fellow latino brothers and sisters wobbling through the streets of Echo Park. Weight issues in Echo Park aside, we latinos make up 15.4% of the population in this country, and yet the term used to describe us, "latino", is a misnomer at best...but for the sake of simplicity I will use it. "Latinos" only exist in the United Sates, it's only within the context of this country that we are Latinos. Our identity was created by our condition, and the nomenclature was chosen by the majority group. This is particularly true of the word "hispanic" which is an idiotic term at best. As such, latino it is. I don't mind the term, and happily identify as such. I should mention, however, that it lumps a huge range of individuals together. Red-haired Colombian jews, brown skinned mexicans, black Dominicans, natives from Ecuador, white Argentines...all latinos. Doesn't matter, even if the cultural differences are far more substantial than those between English speaking countries (say, Americans, Australians, and Belizians), we are all one once we cross the American border.

Back in Colombia, I was Colombian. In Spain and Europe, I'm referred to as Colombian, or in one case, as being from "the Colonies"....yeah, really. Spaniards can be real pricks, even if I largely like them all. If anything, it was always my nationality and place of birth that described me. I had no idea that I was part of an ethnic group, until I got this country. It's only here that, because of our shared language and slight cultural similarities, we are all one group. We are latinos. We range in skin color, culture and tradition...but are united by language, and perhaps more importantly, by our experience in this country. The reasons why we came here, and the lives we lived back home range widely. It's for this reason that a once-wealthy Chilean from a large city may not necessarily see the United States in the same light as a poor Salvadorian from the countryside. The initial struggles of coming here, and how our families responded to that stress are very similar though. So are the horrible conditions in which we all lived at one point during that transition, and the level of stress we dealt with. In my family's case, it was living with 11 other people (two full families) in a two bedroom apartment in Miami. My parents working at an egg-packing plant upon our arrival here, the discrimination we faced, the treatment from the police, the struggles at school because of our nationality, it's all part of what draws latinos together. Funny how that works. I guess I just find it interesting that I'm only latino in the United States and to Americans...and to no one else. It's sort of how "bodegas" are just convenience stores outside of New York, or how Woody Allen is not a genius, but just a child molester outside the greater New York City area.


In the past, I've written about the importance of Colombians in the sport of cycling (note that these cyclists are/were not latinos, since they never lived in the United States, they were merely Colombian). But professional cyclists aside, what are other latinos doing to contribute to the sport of cycling? Well, I'm glad you asked. First and foremost, there's this blog, a fantastic piece of literary prowess that tens of people read, and which has been described as being "tantalizing and inquisitive as it is didactic and willfully astute". To be fair, it was my wife that described the blog that way, but it still counts. My brother has a podcast about cycling...so there's that too. Our handiwork aside, however, there are other latinos out there, toiling away in obscurity within the world of cycling. For example, just today I found myself watching a video in the Cervelo website about their new, made in America, $9600 frameset. During said video, Cervelo is kind enough to introduce us to the team that is making these frames in California. As you know, if you're going to make anything in the United States, California in particular, a few of us latinos will be in the mix. Sure enough, the Cervelo team features at least two Mexican dudes.



If these two faces don't say "We're thrilled to be making overpriced frames for pale-faced, guero doctors and dentists" I don't know what does.



By the way, I can tell that these two are Mexican, because we latinos have this ability (a gift from baby Jesus really) of being able to pinpoint each other's nationality with an accuracy that would make an Olympic biathlete jealous. By simply looking at the type and brand of shoes that someone wears, the mannerisms they have, the type of gold jewelery they wear, or even the size and shape of someone's head...we can tell you within seconds where someone's from. In case you're wondering, I'm not kidding when I mention the part about using the size of someone's head as a way of knowing where they're from. It's a fact, people from Nicaragua have cube-shaped heads that are huge. But I'm getting off topic, which usually happens when I bring up Nicaraguans and their heads, so let's get back to Cervelo. The fact that two hermanos are being included in a Canadian operation such as Cervelo should come as no surprise, at least not to any sports fan. I mean, I think we all remember and agree that the Montreal Expos wouldn't have been shit in the early 90s without Nicaraguan pitcher, and mustache enthusiast Dennis Martinez.


Partially concealed by his fitted hat is Martinez's head, which was roughly the size of the Montreal Biosphere



But our contributions are not limited to working on Cervelo frames that cost more than our family homes. Oh no. Latino abilities are not limited to manual labor, regardless of what my boss may tell you. Our talents are plentiful, but before I tell you about that, let me point out something else about the Cervelo video. While I was watching it, I noticed a small detail that is worth mentioning. I'm talking about Thor Hushovd's saddle position.



Look, I know this is an early production model of the frame. They probably just threw something together and asked him to ride it in order to get some footage of it. Still, don't you think it sends out an iffy message when you seem to have created a frame for a rider to test...and said rider has to use a zero setback post AND put his saddle as far forward as it can possibly go? What do I know....well, not much actually, so I may be wrong. Maybe that's how Thor is riding these days. I just know that if there was in fact a mistake in manufacturing the frame, somehow one or both of the Mexican dudes are gonna' get canned. "Ramon, come over here. Quien hizo the frame-o para Thor Hushovd-o? Was it usted? No mas trabajo. You are fired-o." Believe me, when one of us is in the mix (particularly when surrounded by North Americans), somehow it's always our fault. When OJ Simpson killed his ex-wife (allegedly), they blamed it in Colombians due to the use of the Colombian Necktie during the murder. I also remember newscasters saying that Colombians were surely behind 9-11 when it first happened. So, if we are to blame for such horrific events...why wouldn't latinos be blamed for this latest horrific event (i.e. The Hushovd Saddle Position Disaster of 2010)?

But let's get back to latinos in cycling, and our abilities within this world. As I said earlier, our talents are not limited to manual labor at Cervelo facilities. In fact our abilities are wide-ranging, and manage to touch nearly ever facet of the sport. As an example, I offer you the case of Joel Chavez, a talented Cuban-born cyclist who is as skilled on his bike as he is in the art of commentating. In sharing this video with you (which was sent to me by internet sensation, and all around cool dude Stevil), I hope you'll see why I'm starting a petition to have Joel Chavez replace Phil Liggett AND Paul Sherwen over at Versus. Like a modern-day troubadour, Joel has the uncanny ability to weave a tale, and thus keeps us all at the edge of our seats. The video starts slow, but builds to a fantastic crescendo. Listen and learn Paul and Phil. If you don't, your jobs could be on the line:





My second bit of proof about latino involvement in the cycling "scene" at large, is this short documentary about the Puerto Rican Schwinn Club. Say what you will about these guys, the heft of their bikes, or the how un-pro they are...but I'll tell you this: I would rather hang out with these guys than the average roadie any day. Can you imagine going on a group ride with these guys? The ride would probably be about four miles long, would feature two food breaks, and three unscheduled stops for mechanicals. First Pablo's horn stops working, and then one of Manuel's eighteen mirrors falls off. At the end of the ride, everyone probably ends up at some dude's apartment for celebratory mofongo courtesy of his wife. Four miles and mofongo in the midst of good company? Sign me up. With all this in mind, I would drop in on their epic group rides any day! Oh, and please notice that these are guys riding single speed bikes through the streets of Manhattan, and yet they manage not to make that simple task look like a cultural calling, as most fixie enthusiasts do. They're just riding their bikes. Score one for my people.



By the way, if you giggled, or thought for a second that the accents featured on the videos above were even remotely humorous...you're racist. As such, I will report you to the authorities immediately. You see, I can laugh at their accents...because I'm latino and have an accent too, but you can't. Deal with it.

To be fair and balanced, I would also like to share with you proof that average white guys are doing great things in the world of cycling and bikes at large. Enjoy.