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LATINAS IN THE WNBA – PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE: Traditions and Cultural Values ​​of Latina Players

For the great celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month 2022ESPN Deportes presents this special series, Latinas in the WNBA – past, present and future:

  • Traditions and cultural values ​​of Latina players

  • Diana Taurasi is proud of her Argentine roots

  • Cuban-American Rebecca Lobo was the first Latina player in the WNBA

  • Evina Westbrook is the first female Mexican-American player in the WNBA.

  • The WNBA needs to recruit more Latinas at every level.

  • Katie Benzan this year became the first Dominican player in the WNBA

  • Terri Acosta, from the NY Liberty, is the only Latina physical trainer in the WNBA

  • How difficult it is to be a young free agent and who are the Latin promises of today


LATINAS IN THE WNBA – PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

I wish I could tell you that the list of Latinas in the league — since its inception in 1996 — is very long, that I had plenty of players and managers to contact… but unfortunately that’s not the case. The list is too short.

The Cuban-American Rebecca Loboa member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, was part of the league when it started, signing with the New York Liberty and subsequently becoming an All-Star. She now continues to be involved with the sport as an ESPN women’s basketball commentator. Eight years would pass, until 2004, until the arrival of the next Latina: the American with Argentine blood, Diana Taurasi, who at 40 has become the best women’s basketball player of all time, period. She has won three league titles with the Phoenix Mercuryamong many other honors.

It can be said that in the context of this series, Lobo and Taurasi represent the past, the present and also the future of the WNBA… at least until Taurasi retires and decides his next steps. Lobo will continue to stimulate the growth of the league, as a television analyst of the games.

As for the present and future of the WNBA, we have seen great Latin talent with a lot of promise recently: Evina Westbrook and Katie BenzanMore They debuted in the league this year, both making history as the first American players of Mexican and Dominican descent, respectively. The Puerto Rican Arella Guirantes and the Mexican-American Raina Perez They are free agents. In addition, we spoke with the only Latina physical trainer in the league, Terri Acosta of New York Liberty.

There are several topics that stood out above the rest when talking with the Latin figures of the league: pride for the culture, amor for the family and a called for more Latinas to be brought to the WNBA. We will discuss this last topic later in the series.


THE HERITAGE OF THE LANGUAGE

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Answering a question in Spanish, the Phoenix Mercury star gave a summary of his last days. Her teammate Brittney Griner’s reaction is worth gold.

Our language is part of the cultural heritage that we pass on to our children.

The Argentine mother of the mythical Diana Taurasi of Phoenix Mercury dedicated himself to his daughter learning Spanish. It was the language they spoke in the house; furthermore, they only watched television programs in Spanish and listened to music in Spanish.

Well, the strategy worked. Who forgets that answer that Taurasi gave with such ease at a press conference last October, after his wife Penny Taylor had given birth to the couple’s second baby?

Taurasi said in part, “We won the game in Vegas with this team that I love so much, I have so much love for. And then right here to Phoenix and we had a little girl who’s in good health, Penny too.” As she talked about her, her teammate Brittney Griner – who is currently facing a 9-year sentence in a Russian jail – couldn’t hide her disbelief and, at the same time, her admiration as she joined her at the table.

For its part, Rebecca Lobo he confesses that he does not speak Spanish, but fondly remembers his Cuban grandfather. “My grandfather would speak to me in Spanish and I would just look at him and say, ‘This is nothing like what we’re learning in school.’ And that’s when we started to learn more about his journey, our family’s journey starting in Spain, then Cuba and then through Tampa, then migrating north and ending up in Connecticut.

What is interesting is that, according to Lobo, the fact that his last name is in Spanish does not automatically give away his ethnic identity, “Even though Lobo is a Spanish word, most of the time people have no idea what my heritage is and They’re surprised to learn that my name is Cuban, that my heritage is Cuban. And it’s kind of a cool revelation because oftentimes, most of the time, when you see Hispanic women, they’re not 6-foot-4 former basketball players. But that’s who I am and that’s who I am.”

Eve Westbrookwho was a rookie of the Washington Mystics this year and became the first Mexican-American in league history, she grew up surrounded by women who spoke Spanish, particularly the most important woman in her life, “My mom is my best friend and… English is her second language. She didn’t learn English until she went to school. When we were younger, especially my grandparents and older people always spoke to us in Spanish. My great-grandmother didn’t know any English…she just couldn’t pronounce anything.”

In Westbrook, the one who was perhaps the most famous icon of Tex-Mex music left a deep mark thanks to her songs in Spanish, “I grew up watching Selena; I thought I was Selena. I didn’t know how to speak Spanish, but I could sing in Spanish.” . Little things like that, that start to spread.”

In the meantime, Katie BenzanMoreof a Dominican father and an Irish mother, grew up in the state of Massachusetts speaking mostly English, apparently so as not to marginalize his mother, “With my dad’s family, we speak a little Spanish, but my mom doesn’t really speak a single word of Spanish.

The physical trainer of the New York Liberty, Terri Acosta, grew up in Texas as part of a close-knit family. His parents and his grandmother spoke to him in pure Spanish. She learned more Spanish than she thinks, because this is what she explained to me, in Spanish, “I understand, but to speak backwards, like this, like this”.


THE INHERITANCE OF FAMILY TRADITIONS

For Latino families, particularly in the United States, virtually every month is Hispanic Heritage Month. As our interviews showed, the common thread — regardless of the family’s country of origin — is family gatherings, sometimes on holidays, with delicious typical food.

Westbrook learned a tradition that accompanies Mexican holidays, “I’ve always had to make tamales at Christmas. That was always my job in food preparation. And I can’t eat ‘fake’ Mexican food; I can’t…because I’m so used to to real things. I can’t eat ‘fake’ Mexican food.”

And who said that the Cry of Independence is limited to the country where it was given? Westbrook and his family commemorate him year after year from the United States, “We always celebrate the true Independence Day of Mexico in September, always.”

Westbrook is excited to feel complicit in the culture, as if he had a unique ticket to it, because his family has shared with him over the years “the Mexican stories or myths that exist — elements of my culture and my heritage with the ones I didn’t really grow up with, but my family did.

Benzan also expressed nostalgia for Christmas… family… typical food… travel: “But my favorite part is at Christmas, when we go to visit my dad’s side of the family. We make empanadas, we make cupcakes … It’s so much fun to see that taste of home. When I was younger, we were able to visit the Dominican Republic and it was such a beautiful country that I can’t wait to go back.”

The family of Acosta has a great tradition: it celebrates everything! “Life is a celebration with us. Any day and every day we celebrate the little wins and the big wins. Obviously growing up, birthdays were awesome.”

Of course, the 15-year-old couldn’t miss, “I have two sisters and we all had quinceañeras. That was amazing, being able to go through that whole process of presenting what a quinceañera does and just giving back to family and friends for the love and support.” that they toasted until that 15th birthday and then moving on to what is considered adulthood thereafter.One thing I miss not being home, I miss all the weddings and all the other fifteen years that I missed being here In New York”.

HAPPY HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH!

On behalf of our great family in ESPN Sportswe wish you a very happy Hispanic Heritage Month 2022.

Lobo is happy that this great annual celebration of her culture has arrived once again, “I think the beauty of Hispanic Heritage Month is that it is a time to reflect and accept who you are, and really bring it to the fore and talk a little more about it and appreciate it in a more vocal way. He adds, “I did that last year in particular on social media posts, just for people who don’t understand or know my background: ‘This is who I am and this is a month where you can really celebrate it.’ I think that’s something that makes the month special.”

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