Immigration and legacies of migration are marked through sports, especially in Argentina. Rugby is the second most popular sport in the country, after soccer. Both sports were brought by the Spanish as they colonized Latin America in the early 19th century, and today many players from Argentina migrate to play in Europe. I began playing when I was nine with my father and brother. Many years later as I finalized my decision to move to the the United States, the first thing I thought was, “Okay, I’m going to play rugby, but where? Is there a rugby club at the University of Michigan?” One of the first connections I made when I got to Ann Arbor was with the Michigan Rugby and Football Club.
Rugby was a way for me to ease the frictions I faced as an immigrant; it was a beautiful experience. Most people playing for the UMRFC were American, though some were Canadian and others from different Pacific islands, and I was the only Latin American. But at practices, we just talked about what we had in common, which was the game. They were like, “Oh where are you from? Argentina, that’s so nice” and then we played, because it made no difference. They were happy to have someone playing rugby for them, and our different nationalities only made the game more interesting.
Many of my first experiences in United States were mediated though sports. I was very lucky to learn rugby in Argentina and then carry that with me when I arrived in Ann Arbor. It was something familiar for me, which most immigrants need; something that makes one feel safe, happy, and familiar in a foreign country. I always try to put myself in situations that focus on community, like rugby. Rugby culture is one of the most unique things I’ve ever experienced. Unlike other professional contact sports, there’s something international about it that makes every rugby club welcome to other ruggers around the world.