Bethesda-Chevy Chase's Carla Amaya takes to wrestling mat with support of her parents

Bethesda-Chevy Chase wrestler Carla Amaya talks about her relationship with her parents and how culture has played a part in her growth as a wrestler. Her parents discuss their concerns and also their sense of pride in watching their daughter blossom into a all-around student-athlete. (Feb. 11)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 12, 2011; 12:07 AM

It wasn't truly a "no." Patricia Amaya's response during dinner one night in late 2008 was more of a knee-jerk reaction.

Amaya wanted to be supportive of her youngest daughter, Carla, but in her native Colombia girls didn't play sports, let alone one as aggressive as wrestling. Carla's father, Carlos, who was born in El Salvador, was concerned about his daughter getting hurt.

By the looks of it, though, Carla, at the time a sophomore at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, was serious about trying out for the team.

"Mamita, but that's not a sport for women," Patricia recalled telling her daughter.

"No, mami, you have to have an open mind," Carla replied.

It was at a public school in Hyattsville that Patricia, after moving there as a teenager from Colombia, played her first sport. She wasn't about to deny her daughter the opportunity to try another one, even if she had doubts about how long she would last and what people may think.

So the Amayas relented, throwing their support behind their daughter that night.

Carla's journey from novice to three-year veteran of the B-CC wrestling team featured bruised cheeks, nasty contusions and moments of frustration. But her parents also watched her grow into a stronger, more disciplined and confident young woman. And through her, they gained a deeper understanding of their adopted country's culture, and the potential it holds for their children.

"When you live here, you learn," Patricia, 52, said in Spanish. "The culture teaches you. If I were in Colombia, I wouldn't let Carla wrestle. But now, perspectives change. Now I want my grandson to play football. And my granddaughter is going to play soccer."

For Patricia, sports back home were for the rich - and rarely for women. When she first saw women playing soccer when she moved to Maryland at 16 with her uncle, she couldn't believe it. Soon, however, she was playing softball, while finishing high school at Northwestern.

"I've matured," she said. "I've had daughters here, born here, which is very different. And American culture is different. You have plenty of opportunity. Look at the school and how many sports are available. In Colombia, there isn't that."

Growing up in El Salvador before moving to the United States at 20, Carla's father Carlos was accustomed to active girls. He played baseball with some in middle school and even had a few female cousins that were good at the game.

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