We are the Champions

Possibly you noticed an inordinate amount of fireworks going off in the city in the last few weeks. But then again, possibly you didn’t. In case you have been so immersed in your language studies that you’ve had no time for the outside world, we’ll let you in on what all the celebrations are about: Quetzaltenango’s football team, Club Social y Deportivo Xelajú Mario Camposeco, aka Xelajú MC, aka the Superchivos won the National League final on the 19th of May. Despite the fact that the team was founded back in 1928, it was only the fifth time that they have won the national championship, although things seem to be improving – the first three victories were roughly 20 years apart, but the fourth came just 5 years ago, in the 2006/2007 season. That this victory marks number 5 is why you’re bound to have heard plenty about the Quinta Luna (fifth moon), and why the team jersey now has 5 moons emblazoned on its front.

Which would be a nice little story if football were just a game, but we are in Guatemala after all. And being that football is everything, for a city like Xela to win the national competition means a whole lot more than just a trophy and a little bit of glory. Historically speaking, Xela has always been marginalized, despite being the country’s nominal second city. Political scientists point to the fact that the highlands, with their large indigenous population have been systematically sidelined by the overwhelmingly Ladino national government (and per-capita infrastructure spending compared to less indigenous regions bears this theory out). In fact, in the mid 1800s Quetzaltenango tried various times to cede from Guatemala and form a separate country.

So the Quinta Luna is not just about winning the final. It’s a validation of all that we hold dear, that the city that we love (often despite itself) – forgotten, disenfranchised, nationally mocked for its inhospitable weather and overlooked as a tourist destination even by our own national tourism department – is still capable of producing the best football team the country has to offer. It’s a victory that everyone who lives here – Guatemalan, expat, passer-through – takes personally, because face it, if you’re here at all it’s because somewhere within you there is a love of the underdog. And there is no sweeter victory than when the underdog wins.

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