Super fans of Mexican soccer club find a haven in N. Austin restaurant

During soccer season, a few things stand out at the Super Nacho Mexican Grill restaurant. In the parking lot, a driver has encased his entire rear window with film in homage to the Tigres soccer team of Monterrey, Mexico. From other cars, the team’s gold-and-blue flags bristle from the windows.

In the past year, Super Nacho has become the official home of Libres y Lokos, a type of fan club called an “hinchada” or “barra” in Spanish. The gatherings are a standout in Austin where many residents eat and breathe burnt orange, but the small eatery in a strip mall off North Lamar has become a haven for fútbol fanatics during the Mexican soccer season.

Members of hinchadas “go wherever, anywhere, following their team,” explained Robert Hernández, a sports analyst and Mexican soccer blogger who lives in Austin. “They always arrive in a group and leave as a group. They start cheering on their team long before the start of the game outside the stadium and even after the game ends. They sing, jump and cheer for the entire 90 minutes of play.”

The restaurant, which seats just more than 150, is popular for its beer specials and red enchiladas potosinas. The energy and the sounds of the fans who fill the place transform it into a small block of Mexican stadium. Here, at Super Nacho, the pounding of bass drums, the clang of giant rattles, and the chanting and singing do not stop while the players are playing.

“I always wanted to feel the excitement here in Austin that I felt back in the stadium in Mexico,” said José Alfredo Ramirez, a 23-year-old student of international relations at the University of Texas. Ramirez co-founded Libres y Lokos with friend Tony Sanchez. Ramírez is a native of the Lopez Mateos colony, in Santa Catarina area of Monterrey. He said he has been Tigres fan as far back as he can remember. “I wanted to bring to Austin the Tigres culture.”

At Super Nacho entire families, from toddlers to grandparents, are part of the hinchada. All either wear — or are painted — the team’s gold and blue. Chanting — often just “Ti-ge-res! Ti-ge-res!” — goes on for the duration of the game.

Ignacio Araujo and his wife Sandra Guajardo, the owners of Super Nacho, have been Tigres fans since they were both children.

A sign runs almost the length of an entire wall declaring, “Austin, TX is Tiger Territory.” It was what inspired Ramírez to create a local chapter of the Libre y Lokos hinchada. Ramírez, Araujo and Sanchez taught some acquaintances the songs and chants the official hinchada uses in Monterrey. And then in 2012, they used Facebook — visit them at — to invite others to join them.

They hoped their invitation would be received warmly but weren’t prepared for the overwhelming response.

The shouldn’t have surprised them, given the Tigres team’s reputation is having one of the largest, most devout groups of supporters in all of Mexican soccer, said Jorge Iturralde, a “Club Deportes” magazine sports analyst in Austin.

“The (Monterrey) Tigres fan club is considered the best,” Iturralde said. “They always fill the stadium, no matter who the team plays.”

At home, the Tigres sells about 25,000 season tickets — more than half the stadium, said Iturralde, who is a fan of the León soccer club. “No other team in Mexico has that type of fan loyalty.”

Other hinchadas in Austin include Monumental Austin, fans of Club América out of Mexico City, and Rayados Austin, who cheer for Rayados Monterrey. Members say the hinchadas build community. Some 50 or so members of Libres y Lokos meet up two or three times a week at various events.

“It is so much more than soccer. We really like spending time with one another,” Sanchez said. “We get together and just enjoy life, enjoy the company we share.”

They have even formed their own soccer teams here. “There is a team that plays twice a week, once in north of Austin and then one south,” said Eloisa Alpuing, a Tigres fans since 1974. “But we also gather for baptisms, weddings, parties, and even divorces.”

Ramírez said he has enjoyed sharing his passion for his favorite team. “This is a legacy that we want to preserve, so that our kids have the opportunity to love it and live it.”

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