The Future of Derby: Latin America

As the World Cup approaches, our thoughts turn to how rapidly Roller Derby has spread across the world, and how far it might spread in the future. This is the start of a short series of articles looking at various aspects of roller derby, not merely the geographical, at the edge of roller derby’s development.

We start with a look at Roller Derby in Latin America, one of the most rapidly developing locations for Men’s, Women’s and Co-ed derby at the present time. While Derby had just arrived at Brasil and Argentina in 2011 in time for two inexperienced teams to fly up to Canada, in 2014 there is Roller Derby across the entire continent, and in all possible forms.

We interviewed CoffinBaby of Peru’s Toxic Lima Roller Girls, and Team Argentina‘s Nina Brava to learn more about how Latin American derby might develop in the next few years…

Toxic Lima 

Peru is one of the few Latin American countries to not have submitted a team to the World Cup this year. Did you consider the possibility of competing? 

Yes, we considered the possibility but given that we are the only league in the country actually competing, and that we are a very small league with an already short roster, we preferred to wait, to grow and gain more experience. We have only had 2 Interleague games…

Given another 3 years of growth, though, Peruvian derby should develop a lot more…

Yes; we will consider going to the next World Cup. We plan to travel more to tournaments in South America to gain experience and to get affiliated to WFTDA.

What are the biggest issues for Roller Derby in Latin America at the moment?

I believe the factors are mainly economic. The investment is very high for us because it is in dollars and we have to add the very high import taxes of our countries. Also, our governments do not invest in sport education, so we live in big cities with hardly any sport spaces. If there is a space, owners give priority to Soccer because it is so popular in Latin America.
We are (also) still waiting for WFTDA to release their official Spanish translation (we have [unofficial] translations made by Latin refs).
We are lucky that Peru is a very touristy country, so we constantly get [derby playing] visitors from all around the world (7 per year approximately) and they are always eager to show us all they can. We have our homes open to anyone wanting to visit Peru.

Given the growth of Derby across Latin America despite these issues, do you think Latin Derby will cause changes in the worldwide Derby culture?

I think it will. I am hoping there will soon be a South American ranking at Flat Track Stats so we can find a way to compete against each other to get up. We hope for more Latin American tournaments. We are also excited to watch our neighbour countries compete at the World Cup. We are sure they will surprise everybody! Latin america has worked so hard to overcome all our problems, especially trying to find ways to get gear: the heart and effort will be seen on the track.

Argentina

So, Derby was only just starting in Argentina (and Latin America in general) at the time of the first World Cup. Since then, it seems to have spread like wildfire. Why do you think it has spread so fast and effectively? Is derby particularly suited to Latin American cultures?
I think the determination of our people to go further with the resources we have and despite any obstacle is the key to the success of this DIY sport in the region.
It is a very expensive sport for everybody here, but I know people that go to bed thinking, “how can I make my kneepads better with anything I have at home”, lots of skaters learning about importation laws, doing the most amazing tricks on R3s. The lack of resources can do wonders for your creativity.

WFTDA announced that they are working on a Spanish translation of the current rules. How much has the English-only nature of the rules hindered derby in Argentina? Do you have unofficial translations or other ways to work around issues?

I was part of the group that translated the rules back in 2010; I also translated MADE rules when I was about to play for Team Bionic and last year I translated the USARS set just for fun. Part of the people working on the WFTDA translation are the same people that made a very good  translation in 2012 and the process is taking forever, even though they have the job done.
We teach the GAME based on unofficial translations and we ask questions in official forums or to recognized officials from any organization.

Now that there is derby across Latin America, is there much “international” play between the different countries? Is there a distinct “Latin Derby” culture that differs from “USA Derby”, or is derby the same everywhere?

There is a lot of international play in Latin America; I just got back from the first ever derby tournament in Chile with participants from Perú, Argentina and all the regions in Chile.
Argentinean and Chilean teams get together at least twice a year to play.
Last year we had the Latinoamericano de Roller Derby in Columbia with teams from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.
And after that, we had the Brasileirao de Roller Derby with skaters and refs from the whole continent
I’m very excited to see all my friends from Latin America at World Cup in a couple of weeks because: yes! Derby culture it’s the same everywhere!

The next big step for Latin America would be to get a team to the WFTDA D2 or D1 playoffs… Is that a thing that Argentina leagues have as a goal in their minds?

The next big step will be to create our own regional Coed Organization. Some leagues have the plan of getting to those [WFTDA] tournaments but due to the structure of WFTDA it is impossible for incredibly talented teams to compete [as they are often Co-ed, or can’t travel to all the playoffs]. I’ve been to WFTDA champs and I watch as much as I can and let me tell you, a lot of teams from Latin America can beat many of the D1 teams. We are just too far away and too poor for the model but we are taking our National teams now to World Cup to show the world what we have been working on the past 3 years!

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