The Mexican ambassador to the United States, Gerónimo Gutiérrez, had long ago set his beer stein and plate of quesadillas, tacos, sopes and green salsa on the table behind him. He sat on the lip of the bench until he couldn’t take it anymore. He stood.
When it was over, when patrons at the Sauf Haus Bier Hall & Garten near Dupont Circle erupted, when the crowd at the invite-only party between the German and Mexican embassies realized — some in joy, some in horror, all in disbelief — that the Mexican side limping into the tournament had really stunned the German machine, the defending World Cup champions, Gutierrez wrapped his arms around his two sons and fiancee.
“I am so proud to be Mexican right now!” he howled.
The Mexicans around him stopped yelling “Si se puede” (Yes, we can!) and started chanting, in much louder voices, “Si se pudo” (Yes, we did!).
Two hours earlier, the German deputy chief of mission and the Mexican ambassador had stood between draped flags, shook hands and exchanged gift bags as phones snapped photos. The Mexicans gave a mini foam soccer ball and a book about Chichen Itza, the ancient Mayan city. The Germans gave a stein.
The only ones in the beer garden enjoying steins now, though, were the Mexicans. In the back of the room, a woman cloaked in a white, red and green flag honk, honk, honked a metal harpo horn she bought for $4.80 from Party Depot every few seconds until every person there understood that yes, they were not dreaming and Mexico had really won.
Just when it seemed like they couldn’t sing anymore, a man in the front broke into the first few words of “Cielito Lindo,” a favorite mariachi song among expats repping their country abroad at international events.
“De la Sierra Morena,” he shouted and instantly a hundred voices joined his, became one with his, and though there was no trumpet, no vihuela, they seemed to blow the roof off the Bier Hall and ascend to another plane of delirium. Their words may ring in the ears of those who were there for the rest of the World Cup.
It was the first game, yes; it was a Sunday morning, yes; but in that moment, no Mexican sang alone.
Ay, ay, ay, ay
Canta y no llores (Sing and don’t cry).
Porque cantando se alegran (Because by singing, hearts get happy)
Cielito lindo, los corazones (Pretty darling, the hearts).
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