Split between two countries: Mexican-American martial artist must choose which colors to wear

Austinite Sofi Gonzalez has competed in karate for 16 years. She’s been kicked and punched – and has bled more times than she can count. But as a dual citizen of both the United States and Mexico, she says the toughest part of competing is picking which country to fight for.

By Jackie IbarraOctober 8, 2021 10:39 am, , , ,

This story comes from NPR’s Next Generation Radio project.

When Sofi Gonzalez stepped into the ring at the 2019 Pan American Games, she almost looked like every other martial arts fighter.

She had sparring gear strapped on, a mouthpiece in and a belt tightened around her waist. But instead of a matching uniform, Gonzalez hopped out in a Team Mexico jersey and Team USA bottoms — representing both of her countries’ colors.

“I just remember getting my name called to one of our fighting divisions, and I couldn’t make a decision. So I put on the USA pants and a Mexico top,” Gonzalez said. “And I remember this girl from Tennessee, she yelled at me and she was like, ‘Sofi, that don’t match,’ [and] I was like, ‘I know,’ But I felt comfortable doing it.”

In a way, Gonzalez’s uniform did match.

As a citizen of both the United States and Mexico, Gonzalez belongs to both teams and both countries. That hasn’t always been easy. Her life has been about blending — literally and figuratively — blending uniforms, cultures and identities.

In that blending, it can be hard to figure out what it means to be an American.

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