Rio in 2016: A Great Consolation Prize for U.S. Hispanics With South American Ties

12/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Yes, it was a shock when Chicago was so easily, so cavalierly knocked out of the bid. After all the years put into making a Chicago 2016 Olympics a reality, the dream faded away in a matter of moments.

But then later, when the final winner was announced tears of joy, and pride that finally, South America was recognized and it would enjoy the world-class status that Chicago might have gotten if we'd have won.

Latin America never gets its due in the United States because we are focused on our love/hate relationship with Mexico. Brazil -- widely credited with having the first major economy to steer out of the global economic meltdown -- is a perfect example of how progressive, cosmopolitan, young and hungry Latin America is.

And Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva or, as the world calls him, "Lula," was an international rock star before the United States even knew who Barack Obama was.

2009-10-02-riologo.jpgIn terms of Gross Domestic Product Brazil has the 10th-largest economy in the world and the second-largest in the Americas, behind the United States. The 2016 Olympics will bring much needed infrastructure to a country that lacks in people amenities what it makes up for in oil and natural reserves.

Will the United States allow China and Middle Eastern actors to swoop in and invest in Brazil while we're off, distracted by other things? I hope not.

Either way, the first South American Olympics in a place as sexy, glamorous, and edgy as Rio is a tremendous source of pride for the millions of U.S.-born Hispanics whose familial roots stretch not only south of the border, but south of the hemisphere.

Esther J. Cepeda writes about Chicago, South America, and much, much more on