Chorizo ​​Bowl preserves Spanish heritage in St. Louis through football and sausage

As many Saint-Louis residents celebrate the New Year with the sound of a bottle of champagne and the tune of “Auld Lang Syne”, generations of Hispanics in the area have turned to another couple to mark. a new start: football and sausage.

The tradition began on New Years Day 1947 – the very first bowl of chorizo.

The friendly barbecue and football game between the residents of southern St. Louis and Fairmont City has been taking place on the afternoon of every January 1 for almost 75 years. (Last year’s event was canceled due to the pandemic.)

“It’s a very important day here,” said Tom Pelizzaro, treasurer and past president of the St. Louis Spanish Society, located in the city’s Carondelet neighborhood. “Rain, shine, snow, sleet – whatever. There is a game that takes place on New Years Day at 1 p.m.

The Chorizo ​​Bowl is more than just a game. It is a cultural cornerstone that has brought pride and unity to the Hispanic communities of St. Louis and the Eastern Metropolitan Area which have experienced exponential growth in the region. population of their community over the past century.

“It’s about the people who care about each other,” said Ty Keough, a St. Louis football legend who played for the United States Men’s National Team from 1979 to 1980. He played in the South City squad in numerous Chorizo ​​Bowls alongside his father, Harry.

While many of the founders of the Spanish Society who started the tradition of the Chorizo ​​Bowl have passed away, Keough said their mission to their community is still felt to this day. “You really look back and realize these guys really took a long time,” he said. “They wanted to see the young people in their neighborhood really thrive.

For the participants of the Chorizo ​​Bowl, play is a way to reconnect with their roots.

“It has become a story of friends from my neighborhood,” said Keough, who grew up on the Spanish Society Road. “You know the guys we played with in the mid to late ’70s left and started families and got jobs. Then we would start coming back just to play a bit, but mostly to be part of the experience.

An “unknown” diaspora

Pelizzaro said the tradition of the Chorizo ​​Bowl began in 1947 when Spanish immigrants south of St. Louis began meeting with those residing in the Eastern Metropolitan area to share common interests from their distant homes.

Many players were then members of the Spanish Society. Pelizarro said many of them joined the club after immigrating from Spain and the Principality of Asturias, an autonomous region in northwestern Spain.

While the wave of Spanish immigrants settling in the United States in the 1900s was not as large as that of other European ethnic groups, researchers say migration was still notable.

Brian Munoz

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Saint-Louis public radio

Tom Pelizzaro, 67, at the St. Louis Spanish Society on December 7th. Pelizzaro grew up in the Carondelet neighborhood and participated in several bowls of chorizo ​​throughout his life.

James Fernández, professor of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University, and Luis Argeo, journalist and documentary maker based in Gijón, Asturias, Spain, detailed their research on Spanish immigration in their book “Invisible Immigrants: Spaniards in the US (1868-1945). “

“This is an episode in the history of immigration to the United States that is pretty much unknown,” Fernandez said in an interview in 2016 with Saint Louis on the air. “Compared to Italians, Irish and Germans, the number of Spaniards who came here during this period is quite small – it is tens of thousands, compared to hundreds of thousands, if not millions. “

In 1920, around 300 Asturians resided in the Carondelet neighborhood, said local author and historian NiNi Harris. The majority of them had immigrated to the Saint-Louis region to work in zinc smelters after the First World War.

The job was dangerous, “but they were very happy to have the job,” said Harris, referring to conversations she had with the descendants of Asturian immigrants years ago.

Fairmont City and East St. Louis also saw an influx of Spanish immigrants around the turn of the 20th century. Immigrants were drawn to the American zinc factory which opened in 1913, according to historians. This activities discontinued in 1967.

Despite the closure of the zinc smelter, the largely immigrant village continued to see exponential growth in its Hispanic population. “This is exactly what happened even in 1920,” said Mary Migalla, the village’s unofficial historian, during a recent interview. “Between ’20 and ’30 [the Latino population] double.

Nowadays there are not as many Asturian descendants participating in the match due to an aging population. Yet the friendly pick-up soccer game that once stood between the towering trees of Carondelet Park in southern St. Louis and the open fields of Fairmont City’s Granby Park has remained with the help of a growing Hispanic community in the region.

Ty Keough, 65, poses for a portrait on Wednesday, December 8, 2021, outside his home near Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.  Keough and his father are known as local St. Louis football legends, having played internationally.

Brian Munoz

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Saint-Louis public radio

Ty Keough outside his home near the University of Washington on December 8. Keough and his father are known as local St. Louis football legends, having played internationally as well as in the Chorizo ​​Bowl.

Keough said he began to notice more players of Mexican descent participating in the Chorizo ​​Bowl while he was in college. “It took on more of a Mexican cultural flavor, but they still love football, so it didn’t change the rivalry – on the contrary, it added to the rivalry.”

The last three meetings between the teams have ended in ties, but both teams admit that the Saint-Louis delegation generally has the advantage.

“There were people who played the Chorizo ​​Bowl who had a strong connection to the colleges in the area… and they brought in wringers. But again, it’s something we expected, ”said Charlie“ Tuna ”Suarez, a 74-year-old longtime Fairmont City resident. “Of course there was a pride in winning and hoping to win, but the main focus was always to come together, to enjoy the chorizo ​​and the camaraderie that comes with it.”

For residents of Fairmont City, the Annual Scrum and BBQ is a shared experience for those who grew up in the Village. Suarez’s maternal grandparents were from Mexico and lived in Fairmont City, and his paternal grandparents were from Asturias but died when he was young.

“I grew up with football and chorizo, it’s something that Spanish residents and their descendants grew up with,” he said. “It’s important that I maintain this hook, that I maintain this tradition. I passed it on to all my children, [including] my son who is mayor here in Fairmont City.

Participants in the game throughout the years note that there is not much, if any, preparation that goes into the football side of the game other than “maybe a few.” cervezas before the game, ”Pelizzaro said, but“ you will see an amazing and talented football game. “

Culture in the kitchen

The rivalry and camaraderie between football enthusiasts in Fairmont City and south St. Louis echoes in the kitchen. The chorizo ​​they share is made from recipes passed down from generation to generation, connecting those in the Midwest to their ancestors in a far country.

Charlie Suarez, right, 74, of Fairmont City, and Mike Albertina, 73, of Belleville, pick up seasoned ground pork on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, at the village community center in Fairmont City, Illinois.  Organizers expect to produce hundreds of pounds of chorizo ​​before the annual Chorizo ​​Bowl.

Brian Munoz

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Saint-Louis public radio

Charlie Suarez, right, 74, of Fairmont City, and Mike Albertina, 73, of Belleville, pick up seasoned ground pork on December 21 at the Fairmont City Village Community Center. Organizers expect to produce hundreds of pounds of chorizo ​​before the annual Chorizo ​​Bowl.

Suarez orchestrates about a half-dozen men, most in their late sixties or early sixties, in the kitchen of the Fairmont City Community Center on a Tuesday morning the week before Christmas.

“Add more, too light,” he tells Mike Albertina, 73, of Belleville, as meat grinders and blenders roar in the background. Albertina responds by pouring a mound of chili pepper ahumado, or smoked paprika, from a red box in a churned steel bin filled with several pounds of ground meat.

“We claim we have the tastiest chorizo,” Suarez said. “St. Louis’s folks will say ‘ours is better’, but everything is friendly. “

Pelizzaro, the treasurer of the St. Louis Spanish Society, says the bias: St. Louis chorizo ​​is better.

“The Saint-Louis [side] looks like we make the best chorizo ​​and we will keep it going, ”he said. “Of course we love ours, they love theirs. I actually bought some from the east side as well and give them a thumbs up. But I still think we have the best recipe.

Over the years, the team that hosts the soccer game typically provides the chorizo ​​that friends, family and neighbors will end up eating along with a mug of ice cold beer.

Suarez said he and his group plan to produce over 300 pounds of chorizo ​​this year to feed Chorizo ​​Bowl fans, but also to help support community programs such as the Youth Sports Leagues of the region. Despite the hours of work leading up to the game, Suarez said his small part in the tradition is a labor of love.

“For me, it’s something that is part of our community,” he said. “We are preserving the Spanish culture, or the Asturian culture, one chorizo ​​at a time.”

The 2022 Chorizo ​​Bowl will be held at 1 p.m. on January 1 at St. Mary’s High School, 4701 S. Grand Blvd. in the south of Saint-Louis. The match is free and open to the public.

James C. Tibbs