Translate page with Google

Project April 2, 2024

The Salvadoran-American Women’s Soccer Team Defies Machismo, and Wins



Juana Plata (in the foreground) celebrates after assisting Samaria Gomez (kneeling) for a goal in the 9-1 victory against Martinique, on September 24, 2023, at Estadio Las Delicias. Also pictured are Danya Gutiérrez (left) and Brenda Cerén. Image by Víctor Peña. El Salvador.

On March 11, 2023, a women’s soccer team won the first trophy ever for El Salvador. Of the starting 11 players in the final, only five were born in El Salvador. The rest are American citizens, born and raised in Maryland, New York, Virginia, or Texas, the daughters of Salvadoran immigrants. They are a majority in the team: 12 out of the 20 members of the roster grew up in the U.S.

Forward Kelsey Villatoro had never visited El Salvador before playing for the team, and said she never imagined she would if it hadn’t been for that reason. Left-back Juana Plata, a Houston native of Mexican descent, was not only a regular starter, but key in the recruitment of Victoria Sánchez to play at Texas State University.

And center-back Reina Cruz plans to marry girlfriend and fellow player Megan Bennett, an American with Korean heritage, so Bennett can get a Salvadoran passport, although El Salvador doesn't recognize same-sex marriages.

The women’s story is one of immigration and national identities. Where the men’s side has had even a third of its members born outside the borders, the women have really become a global team.

They’re challenging the concepts of nationality and identity. For them, being Salvadoran is the blue jersey, a breakfast of beans and plantains, and YouTube videos that help them practice the national anthem. They also defy conventionalities in a conservative, machismo society.

In the women’s team, there are LGBTQ+ members who are cheered for their performances, but whose viewpoints would be jeered in any public forum.

But most of all, they’re winning. And this is a story of women who win and then ask the guys: “Couldn’t you also win a game sometime?”


Three women grouped together: an elderly woman smiling, a transwoman with her arms folded, and a woman holding her headscarf with a baby strapped to her back.


Gender Equality

Gender Equality