'An exciting moment' for Philadelphia's Colombian community

Few people are better able to take the pulse of our region’s Hispanic population than the journalists who work in the local Spanish-language media. Among the most prominent of those periodistas is Julio César Largo, the sports reporter for Philadelphia’s Univision affiliate, WUVP.

Largo has lived in Philadelphia since 1985, and has been with WUVP in various capacities since 2002. He has been a regular at PPL Park, and I’ve gotten to know him well even though I don’t speak much Spanish.

It so happens that Largo is Colombian, so he had good reason to be proud when the Union signed Faryd Mondragón and Carlos Valdés. Largo and his crew from WUVP were at the introduction event yesterday, and there was a big segment about it on the station’s newscast last night.

I spent a few minutes talking to Largo yesterday about how our region’s Hispanic community reacted to the news, and how they perceive the Union in general.

Q. You and I have talked a number of times over the last year or so about how the Union have worked with the Hispanic population in the region. We’ve seen a couple of things recently: the sponsorship deal with BIMBO, which has such strong name recognition in the Hispanic community, and the signing today of two Colombian players.

What does this mean for the local Hispanic population? Will the Union get more attention from that group as a result?

A. For the Colombian community, first of all, it’s an exciting moment. We now have four players on the Philadelphia Union. For us, it shows to the rest of Philadelphia that we are different, that we are a different community. We have excellent people visiting Philadelphia, working in Philadelphia. That is great.

For the Philadelphia Union, it’s a great moment to have the economic part growing, and the players that they have right now are really exciting.

Q. Obviously you know a lot about these players, so tell us what they’re going to bring to the team.

A. First of all, I’ve known Camilo Faryd Mondragón [his full name] since he was playing his first games in Calí, Colombia, my city. He is a great person and a great player. He’s a guy who can let Peter Nowak sleep well. The problems [in goal] that the Union had before, they won’t have now, I’m sure.

Carlos Valdés is a leader. He was a champion with América de Calí, and with the national team. So he’s an excellent player. They are going to bring experience, leadership, and friendship too.

Q. You spend a lot of time in the Hispanic community in Philadelphia. I know it’s very diverse, with people from Puerto Ricans, Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia and all over. Are they talking about the Union? Are they talking about soccer back in their home countries? Is it changing? What do you see?

A. Starting now, it is going to change. The Philadelphia Union are going to offer a spectacle. They are going to offer names, they are going to offer good players. Mexican fans think about their country. We Colombians do too. But now we have players from our country that we can go to the stadium and see. So that will change soon.

Q. Talk about how much the Hispanic community in Philadelphia is growing. Historically, it’s been there in various forms, but there hasn’t been as much recognition as they have had more recently.

A. I can talk about my community, the Colombian community. We are between 4,000 and 5,000 people around the city. There are more Mexicans, around 10,000 to 20,000. This community has grown up. The economic part, everybody is moving from New York to Philadelphia, and moving around here. So we have a greater population, and more of a Spanish-speaking community around here.