A sure-fire way to win friends and influence people in Mexico is to be good at football, or as we call it, soccer. It's more than Mexico's national pastime; it's also one of its earliest political vehicles. In 1910, after the revolution, the government cultivated goodwill by sponsoring teams and building fields, a method that won over voters and helped level the proverbial -- and literal -- playing field for the working class. British and other foreign companies had used the sport for a similar, though less noble, scheme a decade earlier, when they brought soccer to train Mexican workers in team-building and pride, traits aimed at improving efficiency and profit. That political spirit has not been entirely lost -- not when it comes to Los Lobos.
Formed more than a decade ago as a club for gay men to hit the pitch, Los Lobos ("The Wolves") grew into an advocacy group that uses sports to expand rights and cultural understanding. Beyond soccer, the Los Lobos organization sponsors swimming and basketball teams, as well as musical theater and scouting programs. They've been so successful that the group has opened offices in Puebla, Guadalajara, and Pachuca.
But soccer remains Los Lobos's main game, and on the day we met, the team was facing off against one of Mexico City's four other gay teams, La Panteras ("The Panthers"). Los Lobos won, as they often do: They were first in the small gay league here and third among all teams, including straight teams.
Was breaking into the soccer scene hard for a team of gay men? Los Lobos' general director, Aldo Peralta, says no. To him, his allies, and straight teams, too, gay rights aren't about sexuality, but humanity. "It's been a long fight" to establish Los Lobos, the mid-fielder says. "Not necessarily a gay one but a human rights one, for equality. Our fight falls within that larger gamut."