Stateside we sometimes say that baseball is as American as apple pie. Baseball is also the Cuban national sport, so you might say as Cuban as the national dish, ropa vieja. How did it start there?
In the USA, we have our myth of Abner Doubleday laying out the ballfield and explaining the rules to his sporting friends in Cooperstown, NY, back in 1839. In Cuba the myth centers on a first game in 1874 between teams from Matanzas and Havana, with the players having been taught to play by sailors from a visiting American ship in Matanzas Harbor for a repair. Yale professor González Echevarría explores the origins of Cuban baseball, and why this may be a false origin story in The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball. He looks at baseball and society from the first amateur leagues in the 1860s to modern times, examining the paradox of Cuba’s love of America’s pastime while maintaining pride in national independence, including separations from Spanish and American identities.
The Cuban love of their national sport is highly present in an exhibit currently at the Central Library of Ira Block’s photographs, Baseball: Culture in Cuba. The immersive and large scale photos bring the viewer right into the scenes from the streets and playing fields.
Here is a list for books and movies about Cuban baseball, culture and history, prepared to accompany the exhibit.
~posted by Carl K.