The son of undocumented Mexican immigrants has just done the unexpected at the 2008 Beijing Olympics: winning a gold medal in freestyle wrestling. Henry Cejudo, who moved around a lot growing up in the U.S., and went straight from high school to competitive international wrestling has just done the unthinkable!
And this country’s principal prophet of hate, Lou Dobbs, must also be cursing the LA Times for their headline announcing Cejudo’s unexpected victory: “The son of undocumented immigrants wins…” I’m sure Lou would have prefered, “The son of illegal aliens robs a seat on the U.S. Olympic team,” or something to that sinister effect.
Whether you follow Olympic wrestling or not, Cejudo’s victory is remarkable in more ways than one. To start, U.S. wrestling has not fared well in the last few years–never mind winning Gold–so Cejudo’s victory is special for the U.S. sport. Second, Cejudo demonstrated a unique fortitude and courage in his quest for Gold. And rest assured that there are plenty of Cejudo relatives and friends in L.A., Phoenix and Colorado celebrating his huge triumph.
Whatever you may think of Cejudo’s parents’ status (his father died last year, and his mother is now living legally in Colorado), there are many more 21-year olds in the US who will identify with Cejudo and stand up to the likes of Lou and remind the media that the U.S. is special BECAUSE of people like Cejudo and his parents, and themselves.
Soon after winning his gold, Cejudo told the media: “I’m proud of my Mexican heritage. But I’m an American. It’s the best country in the world.” And he held the American flag, with tears of joy, saying: “I don’t want to let it go.” In his online posting soon after Cejudo’s victory, the L.A. Times sports writer Bill Plaschke, wrote: “I have never seen, in any Olympic champion, such a genuine gratitude toward America.” Did you hear that Lou? With all due respect to someone I truly admire: Oscar, meet a new Golden Boy. Barcelona meets Beijing.
But for those of us who are marketing practioners–of Hispanic or “General Market” stripes–Cejudo’s incredible American journey and unexpected triumph in Beijing marks one more milestone in this country’s evolution. Whether you believe in the Latinization of American culture or the Americanization of Latino culture, Cejudo’s Olympic victory should remind us all that the Latino/Hispanic experience–whether immigrant or U.S.-born–is increasingly unique: it knows no boundaries and the pursuit of that “American dream” has always been a part of it.