Off Wing Opinion’s Eric McErlain is partial to the name of the newly relocated San Jose Earthquakes. Will Leitch has described it as “bad ass. Some Houston residents, however, aren’t nearly so keen writes the New York Times’ Simon Romero.
What better way to honor the brash origins of this city, the owners of Houston’s new professional soccer franchise reasoned, than to name their team “Houston 1836,” a nod to the year when two entrepreneurial brothers from New York arrived here to build a city atop the swampy bayous of southeast Texas.
Many Latinos in Houston, though, greeted the unveiling of the team’s name this week with a shudder. Eighteen thirty-six also happens to be the year that a group of English-speaking interlopers waged a war of secession that resulted in Mexico’s loss of Texas, ushering in more than a century of violence and discrimination against Mexicans in the state.
In fact, the team’s owner, the Anschutz Entertainment Group of Los Angeles, appears to have upset some of the very soccer-crazy fans they were hoping to lure, after basing its venture in part on the crowds of Spanish-speaking fÃºtbol aficionados who regularly fill stadiums here to attend the matches of visiting clubs from Mexico. Marisabel MuÃ±oz, a spokeswoman for Major League Soccer in New York, which is controlled in part by Anschutz, declined to comment.
“Clearly, not enough homework was put into this,” said Paco BendaÃ±a, a prominent Houston-based authority on marketing to Latinos. “Historically speaking, 1836 is not something we celebrate.”
Complexity might be a fair description of the emotional associations some have with the name 1836. Tatcho Mindiola, director of the Center for Mexican-American Studies at the University of Houston, said he saw irony in the choice of a name that could be gung-ho for Anglos while insulting to Latinos.
“It’s unfortunate because sport is an integrating mechanism in society, and unintentionally or not this is a blunder,” Mr. Mindiola said. “Do they think we’re going to wear a T-shirt with the year 1836 on it?”