Independence Day is here! No, I haven’t gone crazy and gotten ahead of myself with 4th of July celebrations, I’m talking, of course, about Independence Day for Central American countries, which falls mostly on September 15 (Panama is the only exception, as it declared its independence from Spain on November 28, 1821).
In order to celebrate the birth of these diverse, multi-cultural, and wonderful places, we’ve put together a list of five of the region’s most iconic athletes, who hail from Guatemala to Nicaragua to El Salvador and beyond.
Jorge "El Mágico" González
Many soccer fans around the world have no idea who Jorge González is, and that’s a damn shame. The Salvadoran is one of the best soccer stars to have played the game. As his nickname suggests, he was simply magic, and I mean sometimes-better-than-
David "El Rey" Suazo
David “El Rey” Suazo scored 94 goals for Italian Serie A Team Cagliari between 1999 and 2007. La Pantera played briefly in Honduran squad Olimpia before he was spotted by now-Uruguay manager Óscar Tábarez. Suazo played in Serie A from 1999 to 2012 (with a brief stint on Portuguese side Benfica), and he was one of the fastest players in the league when he was in his prime at Cagliari. Unfortunately for Suazo, he was unable to play with Honduras during the 2010 World Cup.
Costa Rican swimmer Claudia Poll is a sports legend in Central America. At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, she won the country’s only gold medal, in the 200m freestyle. For a long time, her epic victory was Central America’s only gold medal in Olympics history, until the 2008 Olympic Games, when Irving Saladino of Panama won a gold medal. Two years later in Perth, she was crowned World Champion in the same event. She has tallied a total three Olympic and four World championship medals.
Guatemala won its first-ever Olympic medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics. The winning hero was Erick Barrondo, who was awarded a silver medal in the 20km race walk. Barrondo won the first Olympic medal for Guatemala, a country that has been participating in the Olympic Games since 1952.
Alexis "El Flaco Explosivo" Argüello
El Flaco Explosivo became a formidable boxer, with a great record of 82-8 and 65 knockouts. He was a champion in three weight divisions. He will always be remembered for two thrilling battles with Aaron Pryor, and his fights with Bobby Chacon and Rubén Olivares. He never forgot his youthful ambition, even after his retirement in 1995. Although he never got a law degree, he became mayor of his hometown of Managua. His popularity as a boxer helped him win the elections in 2009. Ironically, Argüello, who had fought against the Sandinista government in the 1980s after it seized his property and bank account, joined the leftist party and ran for mayor of the capital. Sadly, he was found dead at his home one year into his term, apparently having shot himself in the chest. We remember him as one of the most epic athletes from Central America.