The demographic changes and contributions of Latino documented and undocumented immigrants to the United States are being felt through the large presence of Latino surnames on the American Olympic team roster.
Danell Leyva and John Orozco are just a two of the names being recognized in the 2012 London Olympics due to their great achievements in gymnastics and their inspiring stories.
Orozco and Danell Leyva, of Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage, respectively, have overcome barriers to reach the “American Dream.” Other examples are runner Leo Manzano, whose father is an undocumented immigrant worker, and boxer Marlen Esparza, daughter of Mexican immigrants, and the first woman to qualify for this sport on its first year being accepted as an Olympic sport.
“I hope I can be a role model and a good inspiration for kids that have been in my situation,” Orozco said.
Looking for opportunities to strengthen his talents, Orozco’s parents sent him to a free camp at West Point where he encountered what his parents describe as the only real instance where he has experienced racism.
“He went to play with this kid and the kid told him, ‘Get away from me. My mom said black people carry diseases,” Orozco’s father said. “It was sad. It really was sad.”
Steve Penny, USA Gymnastics President, says there has been a movement at the club level to embrace diversity.
“The gymnastics community really does take ownership of talent,” says Penny. “When they see kids that really want to do the sport, they’ll go above and beyond to keep them in the sport.”