by A. Munoz

I believe freedom of expression is a human basic right for every citizen of the world; however, abusing that right is the most ignorant act a person can do against that basic right. In the last few months, I have been reading Susan Polgar’s blog and it has been amazing the backlash of anti-immigrant sentiments that I have seen towards her and most GM’s that are not U.S. born. This may seem unusual to me because I grew up in Chicago, which is a culturally diverse city. However, now we live in Acuna, Mexico where God has blessed us with a rewarding business and a proper environment to raise our children. To live Acuna is to be a part of Del Rio, Texas since it is our neighboring city across the border;thus, we are never far from the United States; simply a mere 15-block drive to the International Bridge, which bring us to the purpose of my topic.

Claudia Elizabeth Munoz Robles was born in Wichita Falls, Texas in a wintry month of 1997. She was born to a family that was first generation living in the United States, our parents immigrated before our arrival. In 2003, we arrived in Mexico and began to establish roots, it was here that Claudia learned how to play chess. I will never forget when my chess team qualified for the city championship that I did not take 6-year old Claudia with me because she was U.S. born and I did not want her to take the place of a Mexican chess player who might qualify. I was asked by FM Manuel Lares if anyone of us had Mexican citizenship and after affirming positively in less that a minute Claudia’s chess career began to flourish. The general idea that chess players should play.

The Mexican scholastic chess systems is different from the United States. The team that is chosen to represent Mexico to the Pan American Youth Championship is simple and practical, it is not by ratings but by performance. In other words, it is not who has the highest rating but who is WINNING during a multi-stage national tournament that starts in every school in Mexico. Here is how the system works:

* In September every school has a qualifying tournament so that two boys and girls from each age category can advance to the county championship.

* From the county championship two winners from each category and gender go on to the regional championship, which Coahuila has 5-regions.

* From the regional championship two winners from each category and gender go on to the state championship where the gold and silver medalists qualify to Pre-Nationals.

* From Pre-Nationals, which is composed of 4 states each having the gold and silver medalist winners represent them, the top 3 winners – gold, silver and bronce medalist proceed to the National Scholastic Championship.

* From the National Scholastic Championship the top 5 from each category represent Mexico in the Pan American Youth Championship and also qualify to the World Youth Championship.

* The process starts in September and it ends in May. Each process is fully-paid for by the corresponding level of government, for example: in the state championship the state pays the transportation, food and hotel accommodations of the player. This allows ANY CHILD from ANY TOWN, CITY AND STATE to compete. The highest rated player has to prove he is worthy of representing Mexico.

Needless to say, usually the highest rated player does not get the chance of representing his country because someone else that had more drive and initiave mowed his or her way to the national team.

Claudia has gone through the entire system that I have placed before your eyes since she was 7-years old. In those 3-years she has won 6-GOLD MEDALS and 1-BRONZE MEDAL. She has gone undefeated 4-years in a row at the state championship level as well as undefeated two years in a row at the PRE-NATIONAL Championships. Last year, she placed 6th in the National Scholastic Championship, thus not earning a spot on the national team because only the top 5-players could make the team. Five months later, while representing the USA, Claudia faced four of her past five rivals from the National Scholastic Championship in the North American Youth Championship – this time she defeated them all while earning her spot on the USA team to the Pan American Youth Championship in Argentina.

After Claudia returned from winning the “SUSAN POLGAR NATIONAL OPEN” elementary section, the representatives of the Coahuila Sports Ministry requested that Claudia continue to represent the state internally in the National Scholastic Championship. Every state receives finances from the Federal government for each of the 66 sports played in the National Scholastic Championship based on performance in their tournament. Every sport has an identical championship. We agreed that Claudia would represent Coahuila internally, in Mexico, if they sponsored her 100% in three national tournaments: The Mexican Open, Morelia Open and the Carlos Torres. They accepted. It was through the actions of the Coahuila government that our daughter has developed enough for her to play in the United States. However, what did we find when we arrived back home?

It is sad to say that some Americans have lost focus on what has made the United States strong – cultural diversity. We began to see comments written about our daughter in regards to how “low” her USCF rating was, keeping in mind that we do not live in the USA and that Claudia participated in 4 touraments at age eight and nine; two of those tournaments were open. We began to see an ignorant attiude about the rating system in which Claudia was “judged” for having a 1200 rating at age 10, while being a FIDE Candidate Master.

In the last 4-months, Claudia has played in two tournaments: “SUSAN POLGAR NATIONAL OPEN” and the “ALL GIRLS NATIONAL” where her rating jumped 300 points while winning 9-games, drawing only one and only losing one to Evan Xiang. During those two tournaments she came in 1st place in the “Susan Polgar National Open” while coming in a 4-way tie for 2nd place in the ALL GIRLS NATIONAL. Both tournaments cost us a combined $1,100 dollars due to our geographical location. If Claudia lived in Dallas or Houston it would be incredible what she could achieve.

We also heard and read racially motivated statements during our return visit home. We heard remarks from a well-known scholastic coach in Brownsville, “I don’t know why they even let her play here.” This said after his students have faced Claudia 5-times in two tournaments with a negative result. The coach ignored that she IS an American and an official representative of the USA in the Pan American Youth Championship.

A few days ago I read some comments that Sam Sloan made about Claudia where he applauded her achievements but then began to question why her rating was 1268 and she was a WCM, which by the way Claudia’s rating at age ten is now 1322. A barrage of negative comments began to originate about our christianity and belief in God. We were also accused of having Claudia as an “anchor baby” so that we could stay in the USA. Of course the comments by the person in his webpage never said that we ARE from the United States. I pity the person who would make fun or jokes about God like if He were a punch line.

Claudia read the remarks and has read most of everything said about her. She asked this week concerning Sam Sloan’s remarks, “how can a person be so mean to a 10-year old?” I simply told her that this was a part of her chess growth. I told her that she will always be critized by other people such as Nicholas Nip, who became a Master at age 9 was critized for having a high rating when it was felt he manipulated the system. I defended the Nicholas in

This entire “United States Experience” has helped us focus and concentrate more on what is important in life outside the chessboard. Meanwhile, Claudia continues to compete in the Mexican National Scholastic Championship System, while occasionally traveling to the United States to play in USCF rated tournaments, but she will continue to represent the country that has given us so much, the United States of America.

Claudia is a product of the beautiful gift of being culturally diverse. She plays for Coahuila and Texas, both Mexico and United States are part of her chess makeup and growth. In April, our readers were informed about Claudia’s results at the “All Girls National” in Dallas, Texas; this same week our readers will be informed on her results in the week long “Mexican National Scholastic Championship” in San Luis Potosi. Claudia’s trophy case has trophies from both the “SUSAN POLGAR NATIONAL OPEN” and the “MEXICAN NATIONAL OPEN”, we celebrate our cultural diversity while others build fences, not the physical fences but the worst kind – the ignorant ones.

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