You’d be inclined to think, looking at the jerseys, stadiums, or games, that to choose Club Atlético (team) Boca Juniors, or River Plate would be to pick a side in the same sort rivalry you might find in the NFL, NBA, or MLB back in the United States.
You would be wrong.
To make that choice, is a blood oath, an Unbreakable Vow, for in Argentina, the only thing worse than a fútbol rival, is the person who can’t make a choice at all. The team you stand behind becomes part of you, like the country of your ancestors, or the God you worship. You might imagine then, that for an un-athletic, competition-weary soul like myself, the pregunta (question) “Boca o River?” was a terrifying one… But to be Argentinian, even to the most limited extent, is eventually to choose a fútbol Club, and that changes everything.
When we arrived at El Arca, hogar Brochero was split pretty unevenly. Daní, Sandrí, Maxí, and Marcos all support Club River Plate, leaving Osví alone on the Club Boca Juniors side of the trenches. I now admit that, slowly but surely, Osví’s charm and resolve won Tara and myself over to support Boca, and in fact it won over the other asistente, Lisa’s, support as well. However in recent days, the division between Boca and River has reached a fever pitch. A week ago, the stage for Argentina’s Superclásico (the match between River and Boca), was set. However, on the day of the game, as team Boca Juniors arrived at the stadium, their bus was attacked by River fanatics, who threw rocks at the vehicle until, due to security concerns, the match was postponed. Further weariness over un-satisfactory safeguards for players and fans alike meant eventually postponing the event for another two weeks. While many fanatic@s (fans) were disappointed by the continuing hostilities, this isn’t the first time such a series of events has occurred at the , and it shows the fanaticism behind this way of life.
The Superclásico, and this year’s G20 summit meeting in Buenos Aires, are only the latest in a long series of tumultuous world-events since my arrival to my site placement more than three months ago, and I have increasingly found myself disheartened by the ways our world seems to be rending itself apart, inter-personally, and with recent events in Alaska (not unlike Indonesia and Japan before it), physically. I admit that for months now I have looked-on with a lack of comprehension, struggled to pray, and tried, without luck, to see new solutions or balms within scripture to make sense of this. Re-reading Christ’s words on “love your neighbor as yourself ¹”, and Paul’s anthem of “but the greatest of these is love ²” left hollow feelings in my soul. After all, to find the reason for division is to dig into the deeper meanings of humanity and sin itself, which is not altogether unsurprisingly difficult to reconcile at age 24, (or 100 for that matter), and while I expect questions and doubts to linger for as long as I walk this earth, yesterday finally a thought came to me.
Now, I cannot explain why our world is broken. (Yeah, sorry about that one…) To understand why our Creator (I believe) gave free will to humankind, is to understand a love and a willingness to trust that I doubt anyone besides Christ will ever know. However, after listening to a podcast by Rob Bell, my mind again settled on the poem of Creation, at the beginning of Genesis.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.
And God said, ‘Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault ‘sky.’ And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day.” ³
You see, at the very beginning, quite before anything else in fact, there was separation and division. First between darkness and light, then between waters above and waters below, followed by land and sea, plants from land, animals from plants, humankind from animals, and finally woman from man. The entirety of creation itself is a continuing act of division, down to mitosis within cells creating new life, and the subatomic particles within the fabric of reality dividing, forming the quiet, rapidly pulsing heartbeat of the universe. In the creation poem, the writer creates and explains the order of space-time, and all that resides within it. Yet the beautiful foundation of all we know, lies in that word, which has as of late been causing me so much fear and consternation: division. Because only through division, can something new, togetherness, be achieved. How could the sky, the land, and the sea create such beautiful vistas were they not first pulled apart? How could humankind come to experience the beauty of love for one another were not the spectra of gender and identity spread wide? The ideas are running a bit wild now in my brain, but even the rainbow, symbol for the story of El Arca (the ark), is itself light, divided into its separate hues.
This metaphor pulls me now back to my site placement, to the rivalry between River and Boca, and one final example of the way togetherness was forged by division. We don’t often watch fútbol here at El Arca, because the chic@s tend to have difficulty controlling their… let’s say passions, for their equipo (team). However the Superclásico is an exception, and so the whole house is now eager to watch the final match; prayers for respective team points come up at oración (oratory prayer) almost nightly. We all can enjoy the game if we stick to a simple rule: our teams are our own, but this is one family. Now despite the fact that nearly every item he owns is adorned with that blue and yellow starred coat-of-arms, Osví is again the one who shows the quintessence of the rule. Because the only time he gets angry over fútbol, is when one of the other chic@s let’s the division come between themselves and another person. He longs to experience the togetherness of an embrace; joyful smiles on both faces, one shirt red and white, the other blue and gold. River Plate and Boca Juniors, yes, but one family, one people, one ark.
I again I find myself challenged with a new truth: The essence of life sustains itself through division, but only to provide a chance at experiencing the beauty that is returning to one-ness.
Peace, grace, and newness through togetherness,
Post-Script :: If any of you are interested, El Arca Argentina made a video a couple of years ago about the two teams’ rivalry in the family; whether you understand Spanish or not, it’s a touching look into this place and its people. You can click here for a link to the video on our Facebook page.
1). Mathew 12: 31
2). I Corinthians 13: 13
3). Genesis 1: 1 – 8