Mexican Wave

In two weeks the world is going to be hit by soccer madness. Many women are less enthusiastic about the game than men, but fake it. It’s not just about keeping the men happy, or sharing their sadness—they know their guys are emotionally stuck in teenage, as evidenced by the manic-depressive response to the outcome of the final whistle.

And of course their kids (small ones, not big) are pretty sent on heroes like Ronaldo or Messi—and mom’s going to share all that excitement, even if secretly the sight of twenty-two guys chasing a ball doesn’t fire her intimate passions.

I suspect a similar model occurs with baseball and other sports in the States, but in all these male-dominated sports there is a temptation to stereotype the sexes, and that has led to some healthy controversy. Certainly there are soccer-mad women, but not a large amount.

The outlier in world soccer has always been the United States, with Canada tagging on. But that’s changing.

Over the last year or two I’ve noticed the US displaying Spanish signage just about everywhere, and stores like Home Depot labeling aisles in English and Spanish. Latinos now constitute about 17% of the population of the United States, and the birth rate in the community is high. With shifting demographics, the proportion will increase—and Latinos are soccer-mad.

Portugal has in recent years been unusually prominent in world soccer, and this year it boasts the best player in the world. The team composition mirrors the country itself—the best players work abroad.

The Mexican wave of immigrants kicked off (excuse the pun) the Latino exodus to the US, through states such as Florida and California which once belonged to the Spanish crown; soon others followed, including the Cubans, culminating in the 1980 Mariel boatlift.

The Mariel boatlift in 1980. Mass Latino immigration to South Florida.

The Mariel boatlift in 1980. Mass Latino immigration to South Florida.

Exactly the same is going on at Europe’s shores. The southern gateways to the empire are lesser known places like the Spanish enclave of Ceuta and the Italian island of Lampedusa. There is huge resistance in Europe to further immigration, as evidenced by the European parliamentary elections last week.

In France, one in four people voted for the national front party, despite the fact that the historical leader suggested at a rally in Maseilles that Monseigneur Ebola would be an effective remedy for reducing immigration to Europe.

His daughter is the current party leader, and I bet she wished she could hide dad in the toilet.

Who is knocking at Europe’s door? And why? After all, this is the continent everyone says is in crisis, stagnant, the world’s museum.

To understand those questions, it’s instructive to travel, to see and smell the poverty in the developing world, the acrid smoke of war and the devastation that remains.

Despite all the gripes, institutions in Europe and North America are functional. Many in other parts of the world are not. In the aftermath of the UKIP victory last Sunday in Britain, I tried last Monday to read a little of the English press.

I ended up reading The Observer, except as fate would have it, it was the one from Kampala. It doesn’t take much to see how things work. One particular story of corruption caught my eye, not least because the alleged perpetrator had forged a school exam certificate from “Kamuli College Namasagali Kamuli”, a school the lawyers claim is fictitious—it says something about oversight (pun intended) when you can get away for forty-two years with a diploma from a fake school, particularly when you are a business school principal.

Those who come are young and destitute. They come from Africa and the Mid-East, some from as far as Afghanistan. Many are refugees, escaping the war in Syria or the Jordanian camps. Some have been fighting in Mali and wound their way north, some were fighting Assad in Syria. The fighters want to come into Europe to bring terror to Western countries, or to promote recruitment for Jihad.

The Caliphate all over again. Less than twelve hundred dollars smuggles you to Europe's door.

The Caliphate all over again. Less than twelve hundred dollars smuggles you to Europe’s door (image courtesy of El Pais).

On the border between Morocco and Ceuta Spain has built a huge fence. The barrier is ten feet high and topped with barbed wire. Morocco doesn’t accept Spanish sovereignty of Ceuta, once a Portuguese city conquered in the wars against the Moors, back in the days of The India Road.

In March this year, over one thousand people attempted to breach the Spanish wall. They climb it, swim round it, get sent back, placed in temporary centers, sneak into Fortress Europe, or die trying. Over the last year, six thousand made it into Ceuta.

Morocco seems comfortable with pressing Spain to give up Ceuta by dumping the world’s destitute at its door. If that succeeds, perhaps Castile will route the Syrians to the gates of Gibraltar.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.



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