The story of Los Jets is quintessentially American.
A small-town high school team, cobbled together of outcast and underdog students, struggles to overcome obstacles put in its way by unsympathetic officials and community naysayers. The once ragtag team perseveres with grit, heart, spirit and hope, and wins a state championship. The townspeople finally embrace the one-time outsiders as local heroes.
The sport is soccer. The town is Siler City, North Carolina, where the high school football team — the Jordan-Matthews High Jets — was not initially inclined to permit futbol to be played on its hallowed field. Los Jets, the soccer players, are mostly Latino. They are immigrants or sons of immigrants. A few are biographically similar to the youth who have filled the news lately — children who left Central America’s strife and crossed the border alone.
Los Jets’ coach is journalist Paul Cuadros, who moved to Siler City 15 years ago with a grant to study and write about the growth of Latino immigration to the South. After spending time among the migrant workers in local poultry plants, Cuadros decided to help their kids get a soccer team at Jordan-Matthews.
Now comes “Los Jets,” a six-part documentary series premiering July 16 on NuvoTV. The series, filmed last fall, follows the team to the state soccer playoffs, but what it’s really about is something else: how immigrants become a part of their communities.
The immigrant’s saga is a peculiarly American genre, and in ways it is the defining story of our nation. For centuries, group after group of foreigners has arrived and has been cussed at and blamed for all sorts of social ills. Time after time, natives have fulminated that they will never learn English, will never assimilate.
And yet the immigrants do. While all the legal and political fracas swirls around them, immigrants, particularly their children, integrate.
“You are just seeing American kids when you see these boys on a team,” Cuadros said of his players.
Much has changed since Cuadros first convinced city fathers to allow a soccer team at the high school. The Latino population in Siler City has continued to boom. Despite the predictions of some locals, the Latino families didn’t leave. It’s more of a bedroom community now.
Only one member of the state championship team a decade ago went on to college. Now, the majority of Cuadros’ players do. Many receive academic scholarships, not athletic.
The series offers much needed counterbalance to current headlines. The week after a red-carpet screening the “Los Jets” series was held, protesters in Southern California blocked the roadway so busloads of the migrants who have been streaming across the border could not pass.
The humanitarian crisis at the border is not alleviating. People continue to show up daily, including children traveling alone, overwhelming border patrol agents and further stressing a system that was inadequate in the first place.
House Republicans continue to claim they can’t trust Obama as an excuse for sitting on their backsides instead of legislating reforms.
Meanwhile, last week, Los Jets players were glued to their mobile devices, social media fiends that they are, sharing their disappointment over the USA’s much too early exit from the World Cup.
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