A few hours before New Mexico United kicked off its home game against Austin FC Bold at Isotopes Park on Saturday, Jake Gutierrez thundered into the tailgate party across the street on his motorcycle as he often does.
Gutierrez is the president of The Curse, United’s official supporter’s group, and he knows how to make an entrance.
And while he’s often the life of the tailgate party, Gutierrez knows what makes his group of superfans different from most throughout the soccer landscape.
“There’s a lot of supporter’s groups that are just there to bang drums and add to the atmosphere at the match and that’s cool,” he said, “but if The Curse didn’t do all that community work I wouldn’t have been interested and I probably wouldn’t have joined. I didn’t need The Curse to root for the team, but I love that The Curse is a vehicle for community activism and trying to affect positive societal change. I don’t think that sports and caring about human and social issues should be mutually exclusive.”
As he rode into Saturday’s tailgate, a Curse flag and a Pride flag flew in the wind behind him. He’s not just a biker. Gutierrez considers himself an empath.
The fan group, he said, “(advocates) for things outside of soccer that I care about that are important that are not political. They don’t advocate for passing a bill or electing a certain candidate; they advocate for social issues and that’s important to me. Maybe I’m a sensitive biker with a Pride flag, but I believe so deeply what The Curse stands for.”
Gutierrez, a 45-year-old Unix engineer, was born in Santa Fe and spent nearly two decades living the beach life in California. Family ties brought him back home to New Mexico in 2016.
“I lost my dad in 2015 and I realized I wasn’t seeing my family enough,” Gutierrez said. “Only coming home for funerals didn’t sit right with me.”
In 2019, the United Soccer League announced the rights to an expansion team had been awarded to New Mexico. But it took a little more than just a team playing in his home state to push Gutierrez over the edge of fandom to superfandom.
“When they did the original kit release and I saw the original Meow Wolf logo, that was the first thing that got me,” Gutierrez said. “I’m a big uniform nerd in general and I hate most soccer jerseys because, no matter what team you support, they’re usually walking billboards. When I saw the Meow Wolf jersey I was floored because, number one, it looked great, but also it was a local New Mexican brand that most New Mexicans are excited about.”
Gutierrez eventually traveled to El Paso in 2019 for an away match and got to know some of the members. He hit it off with all of them and the rest is history.
Gutierrez spent the COVID-impacted 2020 season working in community outreach with the supporters group. He worked with Protect NM to collect, create and distribute donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers during the pandemic.
“We had to shift and we did so many COVID relief projects last year,” Gutierrez said. “We got 3,000 surgical masks and 20,000 pairs of gloves and so many handmade masks. The community aspect of it from last year up until this year has been amazing.”
This year as president, Gutierrez has helped organize several other fundraisers to support LGBTQ organizations, including Casa Q, Athlete Ally and The Plastics SG. He also teased an announcement coming at the end of the month of a global partnership working on an education-based, anti-racist campaign.
“We’re really excited about that because The Curse is the first club supporters group in the United States to partner with them,” Gutierrez said. “We hear the trope sometimes of ‘stick to sports’ but I wholeheartedly reject that. Some people don’t want that protein in their diet but if you’ve followed The Curse from its inception, you know we’re going to care about things beyond the soccer field.”