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Pablo Quintanilla: Closing the Divide

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The World Cup of men’s soccer is in full swing, and Pablo Quintanilla says the game’s promise of bringing together people from all walks of life takes a little work.

I grew up playing soccer in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Freinet, my team, had children whose parents were shopkeepers, teachers and architects. One teammate's dad sold food out of the back of his truck after games. Though we lived in different places, we met in a central spot to practice and to travel together to matches. We often visited each other’s homes to play pick-up.

While Cuernavaca is a frustratingly class-conscious city, soccer helped us build ties across boundaries. By contrast, San Mateo where I now live, has many more grassy fields than Cuernavaca. But it seems to offer fewer opportunities for children across the income spectrum to build meaningful ties. The Bay Area Equity Atlas rated San Mateo as the most stratified County by income and race in the San Francisco Bay Area.

As a result, children from both higher and lower income families miss out on friendships and experiences that open their eyes to how their counterparts experience life. A recent Harvard study found that relationships between children from different socio-economic groups very strongly relate to children’s chances of rising out of poverty.

Solving this income divide will require us to correct practices embedded in housing policy and in schools. But there are actions we can take as individuals too.

  • If you’re a parent, invite a broad set of your child’s classmates to play dates and birthday celebrations. Consider sharing memberships to zoos and museums.
  • Bring everyone together for seasonal holidays, especially people who may provide your family with services like cleaning, childcare and gardening. Afterall, this is a good opportunity to show gratitude.
  • Last, host a watch party during the Soccer World Cup. Or dust off those boots. Get out on the pitch to build community with others.

With a Perspective, I’m Pablo Quintanilla.


Pablo Quintanilla is the social impact manager for a major tech company.

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