LOS ANGELES – Whenever Mexico plays a World Cup match, it's like a national holiday for natives of that country.
But Mexico's upcoming game against the United States has created an identity crisis for Mexicans living in this country.
"This is like having two family members fighting," said Jose Resendiz, 50, who came to East Los Angeles in 1969 from the Mexican state of Aguas Calientes. "It's upsetting. I'd rather have Mexico eliminate somebody else."
The game, to be played Monday at Jeonju, South Korea, has the two teams competing to become one of the final eight in the tournament.
The fan conflict isn't isolated to California. In Arizona, the match pits family members against each other. And at an Immigration and Naturalization Service detention center in Texas, authorities plan to bend the rules and allow inmates — many from Mexico — to watch the game.
Storefronts, sidewalks and cars in East Los Angeles are decorated in green, white and red — the colors of the Mexican flag.
At a parade Friday in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the Lakers third consecutive NBA title, many people carried a flag in each hand — one for the Lakers, the other for Mexico.
"We're U.S. fans but we're Mexican fans first," said Jorge Magdaleno, a U.S. resident for 20 years. "We've got to stay true to the homeland. The U.S. pays the bills, but our true roots are still in Mexico."
Adrian Rodriguez, a shoe store manager in Phoenix, said he'll be in the minority when he watches the game.
"All of my friends support Mexico, and I'll be the only one for the U.S., so it won't be a pretty sight," Rodriguez said. "My loyalties lie with this country, even if my wife doesn't like it."
Divided loyalties are particularly strong in Texas' Rio Grande Valley.
"I hate this match," said 28-year-old Maria Maldonado in Brownsville. "My whole family's from Mexico, but then again, I live here."
Officials at an INS detention center near Brownsville plan to stretch television viewing hours so inmates can watch the game Monday.
Security guard David Valdez said 90 percent of the inmates are rooting for Mexico, even those from other Central and South American countries.
"It's a Latin thing," Valdez said. "Soccer is more of a Mexican sport, that's why I think they're going to win."
Both U.S. and Mexican flags hang outside the Los Angeles pet store owned by Julio Cesar.
"My roots are Mexican, but I was born in the United States," said Cesar. "I have feelings for both countries, and I won't be disappointed if the U.S. and Mexican teams tie."
Still, when the game begins, he'll be rooting for Mexico.
"When Mexico loses a game, it's like a death in the family," he said. "I don't want to mourn."