Cristian Roldan’s father, Cesar, and mother, Ana, each left civil-war ravaged Guatemala and El Salvador, respectively, to start over in the U.S. They met soon after, married and moved to a town east of Los Angeles, where they raised Roldan and two other sons.
PICO RIVERA, Calif. – A sign atop the high-school stadium’s grandstands reads “Protect the Ranch.”
For four years at El Rancho High, that’s what current Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan did; eschewing professional soccer academies to stay and lead “The Ranch” to local, regional and state soccer championships. His loyalty protected not only classmates who’d assembled their best team ever, but the ideals of a proud, soccer-loving community built largely via the immigrant path his parents had taken decades earlier.
Roldan’s father, Cesar, and mother, Ana, in 1982 each separately left civil-war ravaged Guatemala and El Salvador, respectively, to start over in the U.S. They met soon after, married and moved in 1990 to this town east of Los Angeles, where they raised Roldan and two other sons in their embodiment of the American dream.
“Listening to them talk about their stories and why they came, it’s given me an appreciation of their lives and also a deeper understanding of my family’s culture and my own background,” Roldan said. “And it’s a background I’m very proud of.”
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With Roldan, 22, on the verge of MLS stardom with the Sounders, those sacrifices loom. His parents were in the stands last Saturday in nearby Carson, Calif. to see Roldan and the Sounders play the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The following morning, in their three-bedroom, 1950’s era ranch-style home, they described their immigrant story.
They’d come from well-off families in neighboring Central American countries. Cesar’s father – Roldan’s grandfather – was an illiterate-but-gifted salesman who’d raised beef cattle and later ran a coffee bean business on farmland he owned in their hometown of Gualan.
By age 21, shortly before leaving the country, Cesar finished trade school and took a mechanic’s job at a BMW dealership in Guatemala City.
Meanwhile, Roldan’s mother, Ana, had been raised on her family’s cattle ranch in the Salvadoran border town of Santa Cruz Santiago de la Frontera. She’d commute an hour by bus daily to a small college and an hour back home.
Both longed for more.