Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy, 9.29.13

National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated every year from September 15 to October 15 to honor the culture, history and contributions of Hispanics living in the United States.  This month, we spoke to midfielder Diego Valeri about his Hispanic Heritage.


What does your Hispanic heritage mean to you?
For me, my Hispanic heritage is very important. All cultures have beautiful things and I find it great that cultures are celebrated along with the heritage generated by them. After having travelled the world and having lived in different places, my Hispanic heritage has been incredibly important because one carries that heritage with them wherever they go. One can say that each person is born with the culture instilled in them, but in reality, it is something we learn over our life. I think that heritage is worthy of celebrating because it is something we learned from our parents and the past.


How does your culture influence your style of play and contribution to the team?
It influences it a lot. Hispanic countries "live" soccer, and for us, it is all about learning and wanting to get better. I believe that soccer is magnificent. It is a sport filled with great passion. Hispanics bring a love for the game and we constantly show it on the field. In Hispanics countries, when it comes to sports, soccer is the most important -- everyone wants to be a soccer player. I believe we all constantly share the love for the game, and even though we might have different styles of play, the overall love for the game is something we have inherited. The contribution to the team, above all, is having the mentality of always wanting to win and to constantly find that desire/ambition to do so.


How do you stay connected to your Hispanic culture here in Portland?
Every time we go to a place where they speak a different language or there is a different culture, I always try to deal with it the same way, as I learn and get to know the culture of each country. You look for people that are from the same culture, same heritage, and that speak the same language. The way to stay connected is by coming together, whether it be having dinner or simply hanging out with other Hispanic families like the Colombians or Argentines that live here in Portland. Hispanics like to come together with families and friends and that is the best way to stay connected.


Why is it important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month?
I didn’t know that Hispanic Heritage Month was celebrated here, but I find it very important. It reminds all of us that even though we may be different, each culture has something unique and special, and we all share the same love for life. It is important to celebrate this month, to remember it and to enjoy life.


What has been the most difficult thing living so far away from your culture?
The most difficult thing will always be being away from your family, not so much the culture. One takes their culture with them, but isn’t always able to take their family with them. Culture speaks to community and for that reason, it is good to celebrate it. With that being said, still, the most difficult part is being away from our family and friends.


Have you adopted any new traditions here in Portland?
I have adopted some new traditions by having to constantly speak a different language and get used to different routines. For example, the daily routine is a lot different here as people tend to eat dinner earlier. In Argentina, people eat late. Another example is the nap, which is not really used here. In Argentina, the “siesta” is a very important part of the culture. 


Would you recommend other Hispanic players playing in MLS?
Yes, of course. In fact, I believe that in the coming years, there will be a strong presence of Latin American soccer players in MLS because the sport is growing. Socially speaking for me, I believe that the U.S. is the number one country to live in. I believe that there is no doubt that the foundation is growing here, the sport is growing, and the passion around it is growing. Since the passion around the game helps attract international talent, it's growth here will also attract a lot of people and players to come to the country.