For Bernardo de la Garza, it’s more about opening doors than crossing borders.
For too many years, says De la Garza, general director of Mexico’s national sports federation, his country has turned its back on U.S. athletes of Mexican heritage, only to watch the likes of boxer Oscar de la Hoya and wrestler Henry Cejudo win Olympic glory in the red, white and blue.
“There wasn’t a clear open door for athletes who wanted to represent Mexico,” he said this week. “We’re trying to open that door.”
One key they are trying is the MexGames, a multisport competition that will be held in Long Beach and Bell Gardens from April 20 to 24. De la Garza’s federation, known in Mexico by the acronym CONADE, staged the inaugural MexGames last spring with 500 teenagers competing in seven sports. Five of the athletes discovered there wound up winning Mexican national titles in their specialties later in the year.
This year’s event is more focused, with competition limited to boxing, judo, wrestling, taekwondo and women’s soccer. Still, CONADE anticipates drawing the same number of athletes and hopes to make the event an annual one.
“There is the potential of this sports competition in California to have thousands, 5,000 someday,” De la Garza said. “That’s what I think should be the long-term goal. You have to do your best to try different things if you want to have different results.
“This has never been done, and we really have to push it.”
To participate, athletes must have been born in Mexico or have at least one parent who was born there. Age limits differ by sport, with taekwondo accepting competitors as young as 13 and boxing allowing fighters as old as 34. For more information or to register, call the Mexican consulate at (213) 368-2711 or go to mexgames.deporte.org.mx.