26 febrero, 2011




At 7 p.m., on the night of Saturday, May 8, 1971, the José Gálvez Football Club (José Gálvez FBC) of Chimbote, Perú entered the National Stadium of Lima (“Colossus of Jose Díaz”), to face Unión Tumán of Chiclayo, in the final showdown of the 1971 Grand Final of the Perú Cup. By then a lot of water had already run under the bridge of history.

The Red Stripe team (José Gálvez FBC) had debuted in the Grand Final two weeks before, with a hefty defeat by the Mariano Melgar of Arequipa. They then tied the CNI of Iquitos, and beat Cienciano of Cuzco and Social Deportivo Huando of Huaral. Meanwhile, Unión Tumán of Chiclayo tied with Mariano Melgar, and then beat all the other rivals. In other words, the Unión Tumán came undefeated to its final match, and as the favorite to win over the Chimbotan team.

Even more, Unión Tumán had remained unbeaten since the previous stage of the Perú Cup. In the regional stage they were undefeated champions of Northern Zone "A". They practiced a demolition type football: hard, fast and energetic. And speed was their lethal weapon as they moved forward to the brink of winning the 1971 Perú Cup.

Although it is true that on Saturday, May 8, 1971, Tumán was the favorite on the soccer field, in the stands it was a different story. Gálvez was the favorite. Since the beginning of the Grand Final, until that very night, José Gálvez of Chimbote was supported by the crowd gathered at the National Stadium in Lima. And the Peruvian people made Gálvez their favorite team.

The "Jogo Bonito" (“beautiful play”) practiced by Gálvez was a good reason for the team to be popular. But there was an additional reason, pre-existing and fundamental, which explained the warm support of the Peruvian public for the team representing the city of Chimbote, and the Ancash region. And this reason was the earthquake of May 31, 1970.

On the last day of May 1970, the Ancash region was destroyed by the largest natural disaster in the history of Perú, and one of the largest earthquakes in the history of mankind. And the epicenter was the port of Chimbote.

It was less than a year after this misfortune when José Gálvez FBC went to Lima for the 1971 Grand Final. The Peruvian people welcomed them warmly, and showed their solidarity at every match. The sympathy shown towards the Galvista team expressed the sense of unity felt by the Peruvian people in light of the tragedy.

The night of the Gálvez-Tumán showdown arrived in the wake of the earthquake drama, but that night there was no drama on the soccer pitch. There was glory. José Gálvez played one of the finest games in its history, and beat Unión Tumán one to zero. The National Stadium of Lima surrendered to the beauty of the Galvista play. And for the first time ever, Chimbote qualified for the top league of Peruvian professional soccer.

José Gálvez FBC gave Chimbote and Ancash an unforgettable day. As simple as that. A majestic day. And before we go further in this story, allow me a personal statement. In order to avoid seeming exaggerated in my memories or lacking in objectivity, in this article I will lean on quotes from the two major national newspapers of the time, namely “The Chronicle” and “The Chronicle Third Edition”.

Thus, in an article written for "The Chronicle” on Sunday May 9, 1971, the day after the final match, Carlos Palacios said: " A brilliant victory. Extraordinary. Magnificent was the triumph achieved by Chimbote’s champion, who offered an extraordinary performance. Soccer pleasing to then crowds’ eye. Teamwork, and particularly great athletic shape, was shown by José Gálvez ... "

The earthquake and the classification match were the antithesis of each other: pain versus joy. The memory of the earthquake was forever engraved in the minds of those who lived through it. There is no family from Chimbote or Ancash that does not have a story to share about the tragedy.

On the day of the earthquake I was nine years old. About one minute before 3:23:31 p.m. I walked towards my home’s bathroom, located at the far end of the back yard. I stopped at the door and heard the joy of a crowd watching a soccer match in “La Pampa" (the soccer field in front of my house, where the high school Santa María Reyna is now located), and I wondered if I should be there, alongside my younger brother Alberto who was part of that crowd. I was still thinking about this when suddenly an unknown sound flooded the world. Initially it was a rough, dry and powerful murmur, and then it switched to the apocalyptic roar of a mythological beast, advancing from the depths of the earth to swallow Chimbote and its surrounding areas. I thought of my mother, and ran in search of her.

Carlos Palacios, in his piece about the final match, continues: "The members of José Gálvez, who have been improving at each stage, last night played like colossuses and made the crowd go delirious. After the match the multitude stood up from their seats to give them a standing ovation ... Whatever way you look at the game, it was favorable for José Gálvez. Especially in the first half, when they played soccer as good as the professional league stars. "

Back to the earthquake. It was exactly 23 minutes and 31 seconds after 3 p.m. when earth went to hell. I ran out of the house looking for my family. Stepping onto the street was like drawing the curtain on the most dramatic scene I've ever witnessed in my lifetime. On both sides of Aviation Avenue, and as far as my eye could see, I saw arms outstretched toward the sky. People from all ages and walks of life, some standing up and others on their knees, were shouting aloud their sins and asking forgiveness from the God of creation. Then my mother saw me and said: "It's the end of the world, we must remain together."

Further accounts of the Perú Cup Grand Final. Writing for the “The Chronicle Third Edition” on Monday, May 10, 1971, “Lolo” Salazar said that the Chimbotans, in their victory over Tumán, "patented everything that had been said about the team before, with an addition: to the beautiful game they play, was added drive, courage and fighting spirit.” Meanwhile " The Chronicle” on May 9, 1971 stated: "Chimbote’s champion team was the one that touched the ball better during the course of the Perú Cup finals. It was a team that improved in each stage and finished its season last night beating Tumán". The same newspaper summarizes: "The first half was the best of the match. There, José Gálvez gave a soccer lecture."

While the earth was still shaking my mother counted her kids to see whether all of them were there, “One, two, three, four, five...” But three were not there on the street with us. Alberto and Olga (the youngest) and Roger (the oldest). Alberto had been watching the game at “La Pampa”. And Olga was in her bed. She was born on Christmas 1965, and never walked until she was five years old. She was born with a disability and half of her body was kidnapped inside an armor of plaster. In a few moments Alberto arrived back home by his own means, amid the stampede of people running from "La Pampa". Later that afternoon my mother told us that Alberto did not seem to run, but to float in the air with outstretched arms, as if he wanted to embrace her across the distance. The case of Olga and Roger was a little different.

The Galvista team that beat Tumán the night of Saturday, May 8,1971, was made up of sportsmen from the local region. The sporting press was unanimous in recognizing the individual and collective quality of these young men. They talked about goalkeeper Mantilla’s safe hands, captain Ostolaza’s commanding presence, Estrada’s tireless work, Palomino’s talent, Luces’ goal scoring instinct, and the brilliance of the generation who successfully completed the 1971 Perú Cup. That night’s winning goal was scored thirty minutes into the second half by Alejandro "Casaretto" Luces. It was a night of indescribable joy in Lima’s National Stadium stands, and in Chimbote´s homes, where the people followed the match on the radio.

While everyone was running to the street in the earthquake, my brother Roger had run back into the house. On that day the youngest sibling was rescued by the oldest one. Despite the fact that Roger had severely dislocated his elbow playing basketball and had his right arm hanging from a sling, he ran inside to rescue his sister. That act was crucial. Once the quake ended, the family surveyed the damage to the house. In Olga’s bedroom we found her bed crushed to the ground, flat as a pancake. A brick wall had fallen over.

The Grand Final ended in Lima. José Gálvez FBC qualified for the professional top league. What followed was an atmosphere of celebration and preparation by the people of Chimbote to welcome our team home.

The earthquake ended 45 seconds after starting. Human work was destroyed as if Attila The Hun’s hordes had passed, and left "no stone unturned". While it is true that my neighborhood never had beautiful large buildings, the San Francisco de Asís church was the exception. And it was also destroyed. The church comes to my memory in the shape of an ark, with low relief pelicans crafted on its walls, and the neighbors calling it “Noah’s Ark”.

The day after the earthquake Chimbote rolled its sleeves up, buried its dead, and began the process of reconstruction. Forty-one years later Chimbote is one of the largest booming cities in Perú.

As for the Jose Galvez team members, they immediately returned to Chimbote after the match, because the next day was Mother's Day, and in this part of the world that's a sacred date. But there’s one more story to tell about that night. While the Galvista players spilled inspiration onto the soccer pitch, Daniel Cortez Belupú, (Director of the famous orchestra “The Rumbaney's” of Chimbote), sitting in the same stadium stands, was inspired to add one more line to the song he had written 25 days earlier at another important Gálvez win, the song "To Chimbote". The final line was "José Gálvez is champion!" . For forty years this song has remained the unofficial anthem of Chimbote.

Thus, on Wednesday May 12, 1971, the people of Chimbote and its authorities gave the official welcome to the Galvista players in our port city’s main square. The team members were declared "Favorite Sons of Chimbote" by the Mayor, Mr. Salomón Wupuy Plasencia. A stand of honor was waiting in front of Chavín Cinema and the main square looked "boat to boat" full (a Chimbotan expression)

The members of the 1971 team made their entry onto the main square in open cars, and sporting their legendary maroon blazers with the Galvista emblem embroidered on the left side. On the platform of honor “The Rumbaney's” orchestra provided the musical notes for the people of Chimbote gathered in the main square, singing along making history: "To Chimbote beautiful land, today I sing for you ... In music the Rumbaney, in volleyball the city’s team, in soccer José Gálvez, José Gálvez is a champion."

PS: Click here to listen to the song “To Chimbote”:

New Hampshire, USA
February 2011
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2 comentarios:

  1. Eduardo,
    Congratulations for conveying your moving story so eloquently. I have heard you talk about the earthquake before, but never in so much detail. The description of the sounds you heard was chilling. I have a new appreciation for what you and your family went through.

  2. Eduardo, excellent job!! Keep up the good work. The story of the earthquake through a survivors eyes makes it come to life. You have had a very diverse and colorful life, so different from how we live in America. Keep telling your story, it is very riveting.