Super Bowl: Why Mexico City is chock full of Pittsburgh Steelers fans

Mexico City? A haven for Steelers fans? That’s right. In this megalopolis, which shares just about nothing in common with the Steel City, you will find some of the most avid Steelers fans around.

Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye/Newscom
Why does Mexico City have a large number of Pittsburgh Steelers fans?

Beyond Pittsburgh and the rural towns of Western Pennsylvania that ring it, one might be surprised to find venues unabashedly advertising themselves as Steelers havens this Super Bowl Sunday.

But at the restaurant Ya-Ax in Mexico City, a 27-foot, custom-made banner beckons patrons to “Steelers House” this Sunday. There is not even a mention, not even the logo, of the Green Bay Packers anywhere to be found.

Wait a second … Mexico City?

That’s right. In this megalopolis, which shares just about nothing in common with the Steel City, you will find some of the most avid Steelers fans around.

Residents of Latin America generally have never heard of Pittsburgh when I tell them that I am from there, but here in Mexico City almost everyone nods knowingly when we are introduced. Shirts, caps, jackets, and sweatshirts bearing the black and gold of “Los Acereros,” as they are called in Spanish here, abound.

Steeler Nation: Mexico?

One T-shirt that a friend recently bought my husband reads “Steeler Nation” with the outline of Mexico emblazoned on it. And the Steelers recognize it. On their home page listing of "flagship" radio stations, they list channels in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Mexico, and West Virginia - in that order.

“I have always loved the Steelers, since I was a kid,” says Fernando Ortiz, a bartender at the restaurant Ya-Ax. “They are strong, impenetrable.”

The Dallas Cowboys are also hugely popular in Mexico, but that makes more sense. Texas and Mexico share a border. Their communities are intertwined.

Pittsburgh, however, is a different story. It is known for a lot of things, but its thriving Mexican community is not one of them.

For Ascanio Bali, an IT subdirector in Mexico City, it was as simple as liking the colors of the uniform as a boy. He was eight years old when the Steelers won the Super Bowl of 1979 – and that sealed it. As he grew up, and learned more about Pittsburgh, he was more drawn to the team.

“Pittsburgh has an enormous tradition of being a working class city in the US, with huge pride for its city and of course its team, different from other cities,” he says.

Last December, he journeyed to Heinz Field to watch them play against the Jets. It was his second trip to the Burgh and its home field.

“Being at Heinz Field was a dream come true for me, one of the best experiences of my life,” he says. He might be an anomaly of sorts.

Mr. Ortiz, for example, has not only never been to Pittsburgh he says he cannot list a single characteristic of the city beyond its football team's roster and scores of past games. But he, like other Mexicans, talk of the team’s storied defense and the era of the Steel Curtain, the players that they love, and a team that never ceases to surprise. That's what makes him one of many die-hard fans south of the border with a faith as strong as any Pittsburgh native.

“I am sure they will win this Sunday,” Ortiz says. “They definitely will."

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