“Chivas Loves Us”. But only if you’re Mexican.
FBTG traditionally skips the league dominators. There is usually enough literature dedicated to them and we prefer writing about the smaller clubs hiding more obscure stories anyway. However, we are breaking the habbit in the case of Mexico.
Club Deportivo de Guadalajara, more commonly referred to as Chivas “the Goats”, is the most popular Football club in Mexico. Its success is unquestionable and it really stands out on the pitch next to its competitors. But the enormous role that Chivas occupies in contemporary Mexican society is not simply thanks to its success. Most Mexicans would still love Chivas if it finished at the bottom of La Primera this season. The club’s importance to the average Mexican cannot be underestimated. It is a single employment policy of the club that has raised its domestic profile more than anything else has.
Let us first acknowledge Chivas’ extraordinary success. The club boasts 12 La Primera championships, the joint-highest of any club, 4 Copa Méxicos, 7 Campeón de Campeones (another record highest) and a single CONCACAF Champions League title. CD de Guadalajara remain one of two top tier Mexican clubs never to have been relegated to La Segunda (the other being rivals Club América). At time of writing, Chivas holds the record for most consecutive league victories of any Mexican club (15). Chivas is quite clearly a force within Mexican sport. Success breeds sexy. Many fans are drawn toward this success and many clearly choose to watch the superior sporting quality Chivas exhibits at the Estadio Akron.
Geography has surely played a part in the Chivas story. Guadalajara’s geographical location in Mexico’s centre close to the Pacific coast has allowed it to emerge as a logistics hub. Looking at Guadalajara on a map, you can easily see how it could serve as a convenient mid-way destination for goods going North or South or for goods entering or exiting Mexico. Its economy has long benefited from its strategic location within Mexico and has attracted work-hungry migrants from the 18th century onwards. As a consequence, Guadalajara has always had a large population, which now stands at 5 million. It makes sense that Club Deportivo de Guadalajara should become one of Mexico’s stronger Football clubs in the 20th century, as a large population means higher match attendances compared to rival clubs. The capital necessary to invest in sporting operations flows in. Victories naturally follow. People are supporting the club decades later.
Geography and economics partly explain Chivas’ rise to prominence, but why would a Guadalajarense Football club become the subject of nationwide adoration? The club has a certain “culturally neutrality” which contributes toward its likeability among Juan Doe Mexicans. The dislike Football fans fester for certain clubs is often based on their corresponding regional stereotypes (cough, Liverpool, cough). We would argue that Chivas’ cultural neutrality further helps garner fans from across Mexico.
The cultures of Guadalajara and/or Jalisco (the state in which Guadalajara is located) are not strongly identifiable among Chivas fans. Guadalajara is by almost every definition the second city of Mexico. While Mexico City is Mexico’s political centre, Guadalajara is its culture capital. As a friend and former resident described it; “It is an alternative person’s dream. Plenty of rock bars, free concerts, alternative markets, lots of weed”. Unlike other cities, Guadalajara is not synonymous with violent crime. Its “Gay Capital” status and large volume of students combine to offer the most raucous, spring-breaking-Gringo-free nightlife in the country, a fact that certainly contributes towards Guadalajara’s booming domestic tourism. The culture of the local “Tapatíos” (a Guadalajara native) is one that emphasizes creativity and quality of life over work.
As a generalisation, people do not associate this Guadalajarense culture with Chivas fans. Cross-town rivals Club Atlas probably take up the position of “club for the Tapatíos“. The aforementioned cultural neutrality of Chivas in the minds of Mexicans means that fans from other parts of the country who may harbour a dislike for Tapatíos and for Guadalajara are able to like the club without those associations. Club Atlas is the Football club for the people of Guadalajara who want to celebrate their city in the glorious medium of Football. Chivas is a Football club for all Mexicans that just happens to be located in Guadalajara.
But that surely does not explain Chivas’ ubiquitous popularity within Mexico. We finally come to that employment policy;
Chivas only sign Mexican players
Simple as that. No imports from neighbouring Football strongholds Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay or increasingly (and for Mexicans disturbingly) the United States. If you were not born dentro de los Estudios Unidos de México, you are ineligible to play for Chivas. Tú no puedes. The exception is Marco Vidal. But Marco Vidal is of course the exception that proves the rule. Born in Texas, Marco is 100% a US citizen. But culturally he is as Mexican as burrito con carnitas, speaking Spanish from birth and having that unmistakable Mexican “vibe”. The fact that he was on the books at Chivas at the tender age of twelve effectively confirms his Mexican nationality, irrespective of which eagle sits on the front of his passport.
From up in Sonora down to Oaxaca, more Football fans choose to don the Chivas jersey and watch a team of Mexicans compete than they do any other team in the country. This is probably subtly indicative of something else within the national Mexican character. Mexico is most commonly compared to its neighbour to the North. Mexicans are acutely aware that many outsiders could see Mexico as an underdeveloped country capable of far less compared to the world’s largest economy and most powerful nation. The consequence is a national inferiority complex; Mexicans constantly worry about how the rest of the world may see them as backward. The overthrow of Porfirio Díaz in the early 20th century required action from the USA, all economic indices consistently place Mexico behind the States and now in the 21st century much of the outside world associates the country with organised crime.
It is no wonder therefore that Mexicans flock toward a successful organisation that openly celebrates and promotes Mexican nationality in Football; an industry where comparison between competitors is constant. Chivas is the Football club that Mexicans can support to feel good about Mexico. You may disagree with our conclusion, but we hope you still enjoy this narrative.