Episode 1: Mi héroe, mi amigo

Welcome to the Duolingo Spanish Podcast. From the makers of Duolingo, the most popular language-learning app, comes a new podcast that delivers fascinating real-life stories in easy-to-understand Spanish with English narration. These are not language lessons; they’re life lessons through language. Hosted by Martina Castro, co-founder of NPR’s Radio Ambulante.

How to Listen

Listen free on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

In this first episode, we head to Veracruz, México to hear how Rodrigo Soberanes managed to meet his childhood hero.

Click here to listen to more episodes.

Transcript

Martina Castro: Welcome to the first episode of the Duolingo Spanish Podcast. I’m your host, Martina Castro. In this series, you will hear true bilingual stories from across Latin America about travels with unexpected turns, plans unraveled, and destinations unknown. The Spanish is for intermediate level learners, but if you get lost, don’t worry, we will be chiming in throughout the story.

Martina Castro: Like many kids growing up in Mexico, Rodrigo Soberanes had a hero, and his hero was a soccer star. But unlike his friends, Rodrigo got to meet his idol…

Rodrigo Soberanes: Conocer a mi ídolo fue algo que yo no esperaba. Menos, que se convirtiera en mi amigo.

Martina Castro: It all started back in 1989, when Rodrigo was just 11 years old.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Cuando tenía 11 años, el fútbol era mi vida. Yo estaba obsesionado. Jugaba al fútbol con mis amigos de la escuela en la semana, y jugaba contra otros clubes los sábados o domingos.

Martina Castro: Even though Rodrigo was obsessed with soccer, there was one problem: In the state of Veracruz, where Rodrigo grew up, there wasn’t a division one team. Meaning, the team from his city wasn’t good enough to compete among the best in the country. That meant he had to root for other teams when he watched games on TV, and it just wasn’t the same.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Necesitaba un equipo de mi estado. Necesitaba un equipo de Veracruz en la primera división.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Un jueves de marzo o abril de ese año, me rompí una pierna jugando con mis amigos en el parque. Yo recuerdo que cuando íbamos al hospital, estaba preocupado porque ese sábado teníamos un partido de fútbol y no sabía si iba a poder jugar.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Desafortunadamente, no pude practicar fútbol por mucho tiempo. Tuve que pasar muchos meses sin caminar porque mi recuperación iba a tardar mucho. Por eso, iba a tener que quedarme en la cama para poder mejorar.

Martina Castro: But during those long, boring days, while Rodrigo recovered from his broken leg, he heard some good news on the radio. It was a huge deal — the soccer team from his city, called los Tiburones Rojos, or the Red Sharks, had a very successful season. Finally, they were being promoted to division one!

Rodrigo Soberanes: Uno de los jugadores se llamaba Jorge Comas. Jorge era argentino y jugaba en la posición de ataque. Era un hombre pequeño y tenía un corte de pelo que muchos niños en mi ciudad empezamos a copiar meses después: corto arriba y largo atrás.

Martina Castro: So, basically, it was a mullet. And all the kids in his town copied it as well. One day, the whole team went to Xalapa, the capital of the state of Veracruz and the city where Rodrigo lived. The local government wanted the neighborhood kids to meet the players, but this took place just weeks after Rodrigo hurt his leg. So, with his knee stitched up, Rodrigo snuck out of his house on crutches to make it to the stadium.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Había mucha gente y era difícil encontrarlos. Pero recuerdo que logré tocar el brazo de Jorge Comas, aunque él a mí no me vio.

Martina Castro: Rodrigo would never forget that moment when he touched Jorge Comas’ arm. A few days later, Los Tiburones Rojos played their first division one game, and they tied. The goals scored by the Tiburones were all by Jorge Comas, who was swiftly becoming Rodrigo’s childhood hero.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Después de unos meses, Jorge Comas se convirtió en la estrella de fútbol de la ciudad. Miles de niños eran fanáticos de Jorge, y yo también copié su estilo, con el pelo largo hasta los hombros.

Martina Castro: And then, a sort of Tiburón-mania ensued, that swelled with each goal Comas scored. It didn’t even matter if the team lost! The Tiburón-mania lasted three years. But, in 1992, Comas and other notable players started leaving the club, and the team would never be the same.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Después, yo crecí y no pensé en Comas hasta 15 años después. Fui a la universidad, me gradué de periodista y comencé a viajar para buscar un lugar donde vivir y conseguir trabajo.

Martina Castro: All grown up and pursuing a career in journalism, Rodrigo finally decided to leave his hometown of Xalapa. He never thought he would end up only 60 miles away in the Port of Veracruz, but that’s what happened.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Yo no conocía a nadie ahí. Pero en el año 2007, en un momento agarré todas mis cosas y me fui para el Puerto de Veracruz. Llegué a la ciudad en un coche viejo y con tres bolsos.

Martina Castro: A tropical town with a vibrant nightlife — the Port of Veracruz was a different world from where Rodrigo grew up.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Cuando subí al departamento que renté, el número 8, alguien abrió la puerta del departamento número 7. Para mi total sorpresa, era Jorge Comas. Dije “buenas tardes”, pero creo que él no respondió.

Martina Castro: After greeting Comas, Rodrigo continued on to his apartment. But when he went inside, he didn’t check out the bamboo furniture or his view of the ocean. He didn’t even notice the nice breeze coming in through his balcony window…

Rodrigo Soberanes: Solo me senté en el sillón y pensé en Jorge Comas el resto del día.

Martina Castro: So, on his first day of work as a journalist in this new city, Rodrigo decided to ask Jorge Comas for an interview.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Él dijo que sí. Hablamos mucho sobre los Tiburones Rojos y sobre qué estaba mal en el equipo.

Martina Castro: They talked about what had changed in the years since the team had been successful and popular.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Hablé mucho con Jorge. Me contó unas historias y me confesó algunos secretos también. Yo le hablé sobre la vez que, cuando era niño, lo fui a visitar en el estadio de Xalapa, cuando me había roto la pierna. Le dije que copié su estilo, y que me dejé el pelo largo como él. Pero a Jorge no le importaba. Jorge ya era una persona diferente.

Martina Castro: Jorge Comas had changed. He had gone back to being a working man, like when he was a young bricklayer in the Entre Ríos region of Argentina… back before his dad decided to take him to play professional soccer.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Día a día hablamos más y más, y yo comencé a saber todo de Jorge: de cómo conoció a su mujer, de cómo eran sus 9 hijos. Y de los hábitos de Choncho, su gato gigante que llenaba el departamento de pelos. También escuché sobre sus mejores amigos.

Martina Castro: After weeks of chatting, Rodrigo started to understand that the most intense parts of Jorge’s life had not been playing soccer in front of 25,000 screaming fans, but actually the experiences he’d gone through with his friends. He would dwell on details of arguments he had had, silly fights and acts of injustice.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Nos volvimos amigos. Yo no le pregunté más sobre su carrera como jugador de fútbol porque entendí que para él eso ya no era importante. Formaba parte del pasado — anécdotas que el público recordaba, pero no él.

Martina Castro: Rodrigo stopped being as interested in the soccer stories and became more curious about how Jorge’s wife ended up leaving him, and how he went from being a soccer star to living such a solitary life. Jorge had no family, no money, and many regrets.

Martina Castro: But his friends? They were everything for him.

Rodrigo Soberanes: A veces ganaba dinero con alguna actividad relacionada al fútbol y se lo intentaba regalar a ellos, aunque él se quedara sin comida y sin medicinas.

Martina Castro: And the money he would make he would try to give away to his friends, even if it meant that he’d be left without money to buy food or medicine. Rodrigo and Jorge grew so close that one time…

Rodrigo Soberanes: …lloramos juntos.

Martina Castro: Yes… they even cried together.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Si necesitaba comida, yo le daba…

Martina Castro: …and if Rodrigo ever felt sick to his stomach, Jorge would show up with a miraculous chicken soup.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Yo lo escuchaba horas. Gritamos, bailamos…

Martina Castro: And every once in awhile, they’d go out and eat tacos for free at restaurants where Jorge was still recognized as a famous soccer star. Jorge almost never left his apartment, but one day, he went to see Rodrigo play soccer.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Fue el peor partido de mi vida, no recuerdo haber tocado la pelota ese día. Cuando el partido terminó, Jorge me dijo que soy muy, muy, muy malo. Yo pagué las cervezas esa noche y él no paró de reírse.

Martina Castro: During the years Jorge Comas was Rodrigo’s neighbor, Rodrigo made a documentary about him. In that documentary, Rodrigo felt that he was finally able to express everything that he wasn’t able to tell Jorge that day he touched his arm as a kid. The two of them prepared one of the main scenes of the documentary together; they gathered some of Jorge’s ex teammates and friends.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Jorge preparó sándwiches de mayonesa y jamón. Nunca lo vi tan feliz. La conversación fluyó sin interrupciones y yo la grabé toda. Nadie comió los sándwiches. Jorge, el solitario del departamento 7, volvió a ser Comas, el gran ídolo de mi infancia.

Martina Castro: But after the party was over, Jorge went back to being his regular self.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Un día cualquiera bajé al departamento 7 y Jorge ya no estaba. Tuvo un impulso de esos típicos en él y se fue sin decir nada. Como no tiene familia en Veracruz, fue difícil saber a dónde había ido.

Martina Castro: Rodrigo’s first thought was to worry. The doorman of the building said he saw Jorge leave with a suitcase, but it wasn’t like him to go on a trip on his own. So, Rodrigo thought maybe he had gotten into some trouble. He called around asking about him, and even Jorge’s closest friends didn’t know where he had gone. As a last resort, Rodrigo reached out to Jorge’s ex-teammates from Los Tiburones Rojos. Finally, an answer. It turned out Jorge had gone to Campeche, in the south of Mexico, to start a new phase of life as a soccer coach in division three. Rodrigo was relieved and happy to hear these news.

Rodrigo Soberanes: Poco tiempo después, me tuve que ir de Veracruz y no hablamos más por mucho tiempo.

Martina Castro: Not long ago, Rodrigo heard that Jorge had been on state television, giving a trophy to a team from a small town called Chicoasén. He was wearing a linen shirt with short sleeves, denim pants and black shoes…

Rodrigo Soberanes: …su ropa para ocasiones especiales. Me dijeron que el gran ídolo se veía feliz.

Credits and Media

Tinycards

You can practice the vocabulary from this first episode on Tinycards.

Host

Martina Castro is co-founder of Radio Ambulante and CEO of Adonde Media, a bilingual podcast production company.

Sound

Sergeeo, comountaller and artesmediales under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License from FreeSound.org.

Media

Jorge Comas Documentary: YouTube Video