Denver was awash in Mexican pride during the Nations League soccer tournament

“It’s unbelievable, and I’m just happy to have it in my backyard. I love it. I love it, man.”

Abel Adame drove from Salt Lake City to watch the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals at Mile High Stadium. June 6, 2021.

Abel Adame drove from Salt Lake City to watch the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals at Mile High Stadium. June 6, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
KEVIN-lighter

Hours before the U.S. and Mexico national teams faced off for the CONCACAF Nations League final, the parking lot at Empower at Mile High Stadium was already filling up with tailgaters for the main event. Sure, people were flying American and Honduran flags, but it was mostly a sea of red, white and green here.

A group of rowdy dudes, who waited in line to get in first, shouted along with rancheras as people set up tents and barbecues. Abel Adame, who drove from Salt Lake City to watch the games, strutted around in an Aztec headdress. People were covered in face paint, banners and hats emblazoned with Mexican colors.

Update: The U.S. team won the game.

Fans traveled from around the country to watch Mexico play. They also came from around the corner. Miguel Si Fuentes, who made an enormous banner for the game, grew up in Denver.

“People don’t understand how big this thing is,” he said of the game, not the banner. “It’s something different, man. It’s unbelievable, and I’m just happy to have it in my backyard. I love it. I love it, man.”

Miguel Si Fuentes brought this enormous banner to root on Mexico's national team before they face off with the United States in the CONCACAF Nations League finals at Mile High Stadium. June 6, 2021.

Miguel Si Fuentes brought this enormous banner to root on Mexico's national team before they face off with the United States in the CONCACAF Nations League finals at Mile High Stadium. June 6, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Miguel Si Fuentes came to Mile High Stadium to root on Mexico's national team before they face off with the United States in the CONCACAF Nations League finals. June 6, 2021.

Miguel Si Fuentes came to Mile High Stadium to root on Mexico's national team before they face off with the United States in the CONCACAF Nations League finals. June 6, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

It’s not just the long-standing rivalry between the two teams that made the game a big deal. Si Fuentes also saw it as sort of an audition for the World Cup, which the U.S., Canada and Mexico are slated to host together in 2026.

“It’s coming. We’ve got to shine tonight,” he said. “We have a chance man. We’re right in the middle of everything.”

That was a common theme among the crowd.

Kana Rodriguez and Rigo Spath dance in Mile High Stadium's parking lot before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals. June 6, 2021.

Kana Rodriguez and Rigo Spath dance in Mile High Stadium's parking lot before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals. June 6, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

“It is a thing,” Kana Rodriguez said as she danced with Rigo Spath on the asphalt. “That would be amazing.”

Rodriguez and Spath live in mountain towns, which they said can feel isolating at times. As they danced to the rowdy dudes’ music, they felt something they had been missing.

“It’s nice to come here and get together with people with your same culture and just feel like you’re at home,” Rodriguez said. “It’s good to feel the culture.”

A car flying Mexico's flag heads up Federal Boulevard before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals at Mile High Stadium. June 6, 2021.

A car flying Mexico's flag heads up Federal Boulevard before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals at Mile High Stadium. June 6, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Raul Gomez sells Mexican flags before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals at Mile High Stadium. June 6, 2021.

Raul Gomez sells Mexican flags before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals at Mile High Stadium. June 6, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Meanwhile, Raul Gomez was hawking Mexican flags on the side of Federal Boulevard. He’d chosen a spot on the Colfax Avenue overpass, which offers no shoulder where potential customers could pull over. Still, drivers stopped, blocked traffic, and held cash out their windows to get some of his wares.

Mile High Stadium was not at capacity for the event – COVID restrictions still linger – but Gomez said that hasn’t impacted his sales. His trip out from Los Angeles was worth it.

“That’s what I do. I sell. This is the first time I’m traveling because, right now, in L.A. they don’t have a lot of events,” he said. But the other night: “I made about $1,000.”

His flags, headbands and masks, all covered in Mexican colors, are selling just fine.

Mario Esparza hangs out in Mile High Stadium's parking lot before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals. June 6, 2021.

Mario Esparza hangs out in Mile High Stadium's parking lot before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals. June 6, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Juan Hernandez sells headbands, flags and face paint before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals at Mile High Stadium. June 6, 2021.

Juan Hernandez sells headbands, flags and face paint before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals at Mile High Stadium. June 6, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The pandemic crowd cap impacted some of the camaraderie in the stands, BIanca Lozano said, but not too much. Everyone was compensating for a year’s worth of social distancing.

“Most of all after COVID, let’s get out, let’s finally get together and cheer them on,” she said. “It’s freakin’ amazing.”

Kate Olson, Zoie Holloway and Devaughn Dix were some of the few tailgaters dressed in American colors. Dix said that’s usually the case.

“I’ve been to multiple U.S.A. games, and we get shown out by literally every country that we play, every single time,” he said.

He expected team America fans gathered at their usual bars, anyway.

Devaughn Dix (left to right), Zoie Holloway and Kate Olson tailgate before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals at Mile High Stadium. June 6, 2021.

Devaughn Dix (left to right), Zoie Holloway and Kate Olson tailgate before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals at Mile High Stadium. June 6, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Aldir, Sitlali and Angel Lozano hang in the parking lot outside of Mile High Stadium before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals. June 6, 2021.

Aldir, Sitlali and Angel Lozano hang in the parking lot outside of Mile High Stadium before the U.S. and Mexico national teams face off in the CONCACAF Nations League finals. June 6, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

But Lozano said her team Mexico comrades are compelled to show out when they can.

“Soccer’s our passion. That’s in our blood,” she said.

On a Sunday night, when Federal is usually full of low riders cruising the strip, she said, cheers of “viva México” in the Westside landed just right.

Weird times

Denverite is powered by you. In these weird times, the local vigilance, the local context, the local flavor — it’s powered through your donations. If you’d miss Denverite if it disappeared tomorrow, donate today.

You’re our superpower

Denverite supporters have made the decision to financially support local journalism that matters to you. Ready to tell your networks why? Sharing our “About” page with your own personal comments could really help us out.

You’re our superpower

Denverite members have made the decision to financially support local journalism that matters to you. Ready to tell your networks why? Sharing our “About” page with your own personal comments could really help us out.