Monday, November 16, 2015

Spanglish Brotherhood: USNA's Sprint Football Team Plays in Mexico

By Midshipman 1st Class Jeffrey Martino

On Nov. 13 the Navy Sprint Football team traveled 2000 miles to the Heroic Military Academy (Heroico Colegio Militar) to make history and play the Royal Eagles in a game of American football. The interaction was a significant event for both service academies and provided the players from both teams a unique cultural experience. From being greeted at the airport terminal to coexisting in their living quarters, the midshipmen were warmly welcomed by their Mexican counterparts.

Photo by MIDN 1/C Jeffrey Martino

The midshipmen were greeted by a line of Mexican cadets from the football team at the airport terminal in Mexico City. The midshipmen and cadets spoke a mix of English and Spanish when greeting one another, rather unsure of which language to use. After both groups were led to buses for transport to the academy in Tlaplan, this mix of Spanish and English became fairly common. A large portion of the cadets spoke conversational English very well, which helped to eliminate language barrier problems. Likewise, a handful of the midshipmen found that they were finally able to put to use their several years of formal Spanish education.

“I would try to use both Spanish and English to convey whatever we were talking about,” said Midshipman 1st Class Brett Deters, kicker from Ankeny, Iowa. “I’ve taken Spanish for five years and I spent a month in Mexico, and I can say that these immersion experiences are the best way I learn Spanish.”

Photo by MIDN 1/C Jeffrey Martino

From the buses, the midshipmen were led to their sleeping quarters for the weekend. They immediately began to recognize the differences in how living accommodations were arranged in comparison to their own in Bancroft Hall. Each cadet at the Heroico Colegio Militar is given his or her own bed with its respective set of lockers and drawers. Throughout their weekend stay at the academy, the midshipmen slept in these beds (and learned how to make them, too). Living in these quarters contributed to a greater sense of camaraderie among both the cadets and midshipmen.

Following the game, the midshipmen were led to what was referred to as a “tailgate.” The midshipmen would soon realize that this was unlike any tailgate they were used to in the United States. Set on a hill overlooking Mexico City, the party had a very comfortable, yet traditional vibe. While a mariachi band played in the corner, the midshipmen were led through the buffet lines and sat down at one of the many delicately oriented tables.

They then began exchanging stories with their Mexican counterparts about the game. After several trips back up to the buffet, the midshipmen then began arguably their biggest form of entertainment for the evening – trading. The midshipmen and cadets literally took their shirts off their backs for one another as they traded one school embroidered shirt for another.

Photo by MIDN 1/C Jeffrey Martino

“I traded just about all the clothes I came to Mexico with. By the time we left, I had two different uniform hats, a letterman-like jacket with the school logo, three t-shirts, and a pair of shorts,” said Midshipman 4th Class Joshua Womack, team manager from Bastrop, La.

Aside from trading and various other activities such as ping pong, the midshipmen and cadets also sought out entertainment in the form of jalapeno peppers. The cadets decided to include the midshipmen in on the academy-wide tradition of eating a whole jalapeno pepper.  Outside the dining hall, a locker-room style chant ensued as the two teams encouraged Midshipman 3rd Class Matt Vogel to eat one of the jalapenos.

“The pepper was nothing like I’ve ever tried before. I’m glad I did it though,” said Vogel, wide receiver from Upper Saddle River, N.J., in response to eating the pepper.

At the conclusion of the weekend, the cadets and midshipmen were both taken back to the airport terminal where they arrived at only 48 hours prior. Both groups once again lined up and said a similar set of salutations in both English and Spanish. This time however, the cadets were dressed entirely in Naval Academy attire – the same attire they received in the trades from the night before.

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