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Published On: Sun, Jul 3rd, 2016

COPA America Fan Fest NYC unites and celebrates unique voices

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You know you’re in for the night of your life when the line to an event wraps around the entire block. Before entering the venue, I stood online with a few of my friends to soak in the buzz that was flooding the street. Loyal soccer fans were waving their teams’ flag, friends were taking selfies, and talking player stats.

I made my way into the Bud Light Barra Centenario, hosted by Remezcla and Bud Light, grabbed my press pass and stopped at the Bud light podium to get my picture taken. I was immediately floored by Eramos Tantos’ artwork embracing soccer fans on both sides.

bc33It was only 6:30 and no one was running fashionably late. Friends were cheering each other on during a game of foosball, opponents were shaking hands at a soccer game in an enclosed area, dancers were vibing out to the DJ, and friends were taking group pictures using the #elbudlightparty.

I was torn on what to do first, but immediately jumped on the food line to try Mofongo NYC’s unique Mofongo dish in biodegradable cups, reminding me of my mother’s cooking. Quickly, I made my way over to try Caracas’ arepas reminding me of the street festivals I grew up with, and to satisfy my sweet tooth, I went straight to La Newyorkina for a passion fruit paleta. My mouth screaming wepa!

I danced my way across the dance floor, past Geko Jones & Riobamba mixing all the right songs and beats, and spotted retired Mexican footballer Jorge Campos holding a soccer ball with Mexico written across the front.

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Speaking with Jorge Campos, aka El Brody, who told me how he felt about La COPA America and to be here at this event. “Pues me siento muy contento, muy tranquilo desfrutando el momento. La COPA America es algo especial para todos y para Estados Unidos mas. Quiero que traer el futbol traer los jugadores que estan este evento. Es algo muy grande.”

I traded my soccer voucher card for a cold Bud Light and made my way towards the stage for half-time. Tego Calderon, Latin Grammy Award winner Puerto Rican songwriter and rapper, was seconds away from getting on stage and I stood a foot away from him, watching him inhale and be present in the moment. He was ready for the cheering crowd. Starting halftime by singing lean-back. The excited audience became his choir.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 10.39.46 AMI spotted Maxine Ashley in the crowd, proud Boricua and musician, who shared with me how she’s giving back to the community by releasing a new music project that is “positive and uplifting, even if it’s sad.” She is working on sharing her experiences saying, “It’s hard, but we got this. Like everyone else. Just another more uplifting version. Because everyone else has a different story even if it’s a struggle.” Maxine left us with sound advice for young girls reaching for their dreams, “Right now you are doing what you are doing and you are amazing because you are young. So take that and run with it and don’t forget it because it’s great.”

I grabbed a few minutes with Gecko Jones from Que Bajo?!, and learned how he pioneered a unique space for his passion when no one else was doing it. He stated, “be the change you want to see.” Regardless of the lack of support. Gecko Jones also talked about how he was working on connecting the Afro-Latin community to their roots. “My main objective musically is to give voice to the Afro-Latin community. At the end of the day it’s connecting the dots between Africa and Latin America and showing where the slave ships landed, and why musically those places are connected. That’s what’s at the heart of the stuff I try and create.”

That’s the power behind holding events like this. There’s a strong sense of unity and community. Everyone I was crossing paths with had a unique story to tell. What they were proud of, what they were planning on doing with their talents, and how they are impacting the community and world at large.

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I made my way back to the dance floor, spotting my friends dancing with strangers at the end of the night, laughing and reminiscing on all the throw back songs being played. Whether you are a die-hard fan of soccer or any of the creative artists, there’s no doubt that we all have unique stories to tell.

A big thank you to Remezcla and Bud Light for hosting the pre-final festival!

Sarah Serrano
Emerging Writers’ Editor
Sarah is an educator, writer, and artist originating from Bushwick, Brooklyn.
You can follow her on IG and Twitter @cantfightthefro
Inquires can be sent to Sarah.Serrano@SofritoForYourSoul.com

COPA America Fan Fest NYC unites and celebrates unique voices