When most North Americans hear the word “Cuba” they most likely think of communism, Fidel Castro, and baseball. These three things have truly become intertwined subjects that define Cuban baseball today.
The small island nation is known for producing power-house players, but due to immigration restrictions and the trade embargo between the United States and Cuba, many Cuban-born players do not reach international fame. Others, who can pay their way out or who have been recruited by U.S. scouts, may be lucky enough to leave the island and sign multi-million dollar contracts with the Major League. And others simply may not want to, instead preferring to earn meager wages but remain in their homeland with their friends and family, proudly representing their country in the sport.
Since the Cuban revolution, the sport has changed along with the rest of the nation. The spotlight has been taken off of the players and now shines equally upon fans, players and officials. The system has become more egalitarian in a communist fashion, valuing all the people involved in the game.
Diehard Cuban baseball fans are are supported by the government which provides transportation to away games and easy access to the events. Games only cost about 5 cents to attend and the loyalest fans sometimes receive gifts from the government for showing their pride in the sport and their nation.
Although the U.S.’s diplomatic relations with Cuba may be changing, the 1961 trade embargo is likely to remain for some time. In 1992 the Cuba Democracy Act and in 1996 the Helms-Burton Act fortified the embargo by stating that it “may not be lifted until Cuba holds free and fair elections and transitions to a democratic government that excludes the Castros.”1
Until the embargo is altered or removed, the situation of Cuban football will not likely change. Currently, those who possess the highest potential talent, or those who escape the tight grasp of their motherland are labeled “defectors” by the government, a term with an overwhelmingly political connotation.
Baseball, in addition to most other aspects of Cuban life, is heavily indoctrinated by communist thought, serving as a microcosm of greater political, social, and economic problems that exist between Cuba, its citizens, and the rest of the world.
1. Renwick, Danielle, et al. “U.S.-Cuba Relations.” CFR Backgrounders. 29 May 2015. Council on Foreign Relations. Web. 13 July 2015.