How the World Cup has redefined Latinos in America

It was only a couple of hours after the heart-breaking U.S. tie with Portugal Sunday when the international Brazilian model Tiago Riani was telling me an amusingly…

The mix between the World Cup and the Latinos in America. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

It was only a couple of hours after the heart-breaking U.S. tie with Portugal Sunday when the international Brazilian model Tiago Riani was telling me an amusingly charming story about how he had met his wife.

SEE ALSO: Team USA draws Portugal, delays advance to knockout stages

Tiago was on a Hollywood casting call because producers of a new show wanted a Spanish-speaking actor and didn’t understand that, though he had a most refreshingly handsome masculine face from South America, his Spanish at the time was limited.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t get the part,” he says, “but there was a beautiful girl on the set — and I got the girl.”

In 2013 he married the Puerto Rican singer and actress Janina Irizarry.

Amid the current World Cup hoopla, their story underscores the incredibly inexplicable but inevitably inescapable cultural impact that the televised Brazil soccer extravaganza is having on an America that is increasingly become a Latino country in spirit, if not yet completely in demographics.

For this has become the World Cup that has redefined the Latino experience in America.

The record television ratings have upset pre-World Cup predictions that there would be only limited interest among Americans, which apparently failed to take in the full range of soccer madness in the U.S., not only among Hispanics but among non-Latinos.

Not to mention that pollsters have been proven to grossly under-estimate the impact of the immigrant population in America.

“If you don’t get the Spanish-dominant population, you’re not going to pick up the level of Latino interest in the World Cup,” says Rodolfo de la Garza, a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University who has studied polling among Hispanics.

So the World Cup in Brazil, where Portugese – not Spanish – is spoken, has done wonders for raising the consciousness of Hispanics in the U.S.… and been a lot like the gorgeously striking Tiago Riani winning the beautiful Latina in America.

“I feel like it’s my time – that my time is here,” Tiago told me in perfect English as he was talking about his acting career, though it might as well have been about how World Cup soccer has helped Latinos reinvent themselves in the U.S.

For in our social media age, this is also a World Cup that’s already shattering Twitter and Facebook records. As CNN reports, as a whole, the World Cup, bolstered by its massive international appeal and growing popularity in the U.S., is becoming the biggest social-media event in the medium’s short history.

The historic level of tweets has memorialized all the good and bad World Cup happenings, most of them Hispanic-centered when not about the American team – from the surprising performances of Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia and other Latin nations to the disappointing apparent biting incident involving Uruguay’s Luis Suarez against Italy Tuesday.

Brazil 2014 has become the Latin America World Cup as never before, attracting a record number of fans from the region, with about 70 per cent of the three million tickets sold going to Latin American fans.

Of course, history is on the Hispanic side when it comes to World Cups in Latin America. Latin American teams have won every World Cup held in the region — Uruguay in 1930, Brazil in 1950, Chile in 1962, Mexico in 1970, Argentina in 1978 and Mexico in 1986.

And now this, Brazil 2014, which in English, Spanish and even Portuguese is driving home the growing universal truth that the U.S. core soccer audience has made the country our “Multicultural America.”

It’s not just the 50.5 million Hispanics who constitute the largest multicultural community in the U.S. and make up 16.3 percent of the nation’s population.

It’s also the 110 million “people of color” in the United States today who account for 35 percent of the country’s total population.

Soak it in. America. The latest Latino nation making World Cup God’s international pastime.

SEE ALSO: The underachievers of the 2014 FIFA World Cup