Nipsey Hussle: Murals around the Crenshaw district


On March 31, 2019 Ermias Ashgedom who was affectionately known as “Nipsey Hussle” was murdered outside of his Marathon clothing store.  Hussle was well-known in the Crenshaw community and promoted a self-help message.  He was a musician and well known in the rap genre.  It was his love for community and his entreprenurial talents that many echoed as they described his love and appreciation for developing the area.

Murals have been doting the landscape since “Nip’s” death.  We are creating a photo-essay to showcase those we are able to locate.

 

Review:  Amazing Grace the Movie


[Los Angeles, CA]   Aretha Franklin recorded her Amazing Grace album January 13th & 14th 1972 at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church located on 87th & Broadway in South Los Angeles.  It was a live recording and featured many greats, including Rev. James Cleveland.

First screened Feb. 2019

The album was produced but the live footage was shelved for decades until the estate of “The Queen of Soul” approved it to be shown.  In February of this year, the Pan-African Film Festival featured the screening as part of it’s opening night festivities.  The screening took place at the Director’s Guild in Hollywood.

 

Starting April 5th, the general public has been given an opportunity to see the screening as it debuted in over 1,000 theaters.  I was one of those viewers.

 

The film is just as iconic as the album as “The Queen” at age 29 dazzled those in attendance by her gospel renditions.  The 87-minute film is more raw footage of the two-day concert and features many camera angles which were present to document the occasion.

 

While the documentary is, what it is; it falls short on taking advantage of the storytelling which are featured in similar formats.  You are left wondered why the producers could not have woven in more anecdotal reactions from those who participated in the filming as well as more commentary which was surely would be available before and following 1972?

 

The documentary is worth seeing.  The church is still on 87th & Broadway so it will be interesting to see the reaction of those who take a stroll down memory lane.


My “Hoodie Score” on a scale of 1-10 (ten being the highest) is an 8, due to the rare footage.

Review:  Soul of a Nation Exhibit


Lorraine Motel. Site of where Dr. King was assassinated. April 4, 1968. photo courtesy of Fred Thomas, III collection

Today many across the nation and throughout the world pay respect to Rev., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It was this day, fifty-one years ago when he was slain by an assassin’s bullet.  The result was a public outcry not seen before, as over 100 cities erupted in riots and demonstrations.

1963-1983

Several weeks ago, the Broad museum opened Soul of a Nation chronicling twenty years; 1963-1983.  It is a powerful exhibit showcasing African-American artist who used their talent to communicate the movement and the struggle during that era.  Interestingly, several of the artist used Dr. King’s death in 1968 as a backdrop for their artistic talent.


The exhibit is a “special presentation” so the cost is $18 per person, however The Broad is offering free admission to Soul of a Nation every Thursday from 5-8 p.m. (last entry at 7 p.m.) during the exhibition’s run.  A tip is to arrive early and stand in the “free general admission line” AND GET INSIDE THE MUSEUM.  Once you are inside, you are good because at 5 p.m., the exhibit opens for general admission viewing.  The exhibit runs through September and then moves to San Francisco at the De Young museum, which opens in October 2019.


From Negroes to African-Americans

I had a chance to visit the exhibit.  Some of the artwork brought back vivid memories.  There was an abundance of material I had never seen but it reflected the interpretive period.  Sometimes we live in historic times and do not realize it as it seems like life as usual.  The Harlem Renaissance was a benchmark period for African-American music and art.  Years followed and the civil rights era brought back similar expressions as artist appeared in droves to interpret that era.  It was a new time, a new level of consciousness as Negroes morphed into African-Americans and created a new dynamic.  The exhibit does a great job of showcasing that period featuring very good diversity among the art work presented.


Listed below is a small sample of some photos from the exhibit

 


 

The Broad Museum - 221 S. Grand Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90012

African-American Med students find life-raft in CUBA


About seven years ago I first heard of a program that seemed too good to be true!  Simply, the country of Cuba had a program where students could gain their medical education, training and degree at no cost to them.  Med school cost are crippling for most and range from $140,000 – $175,000 and that is just tuition.  When you factor in room & board, meals, supplies and other things the cost can easily skyrocket to nearly $500,000.

My treks started in 2014 and due to needing laser-focus energy on my two topics; Race in Cuba and the Old Negro Leagues in Cuba, I forgot about the program.

 

Fiction or Non-Fiction

Just like you I love entertainment.  The problem I have is limited time so when it comes to reading or viewing screenings, as a historian I tend to focus on non-fiction or real-life issues.  Maybe that is the reason I prefer documentaries?  The Pan-African Film Festival (PAFF) kicked off its 27th year last Thursday.

Lo and behold one of their features is “Dare to Dream.”  It is a riveting documentary that chronicles med students earning their credentials in Cuba.

(courtesy of Pomona Valley Med Center) Completing his residency at Pomona Valley Medical Center. Resident Year: 2019 Undergraduate School: The University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma Medical School: Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina

In 2000, a delegation representing the Congressional Black Caucus had the courage to visit Cuba and meet with Fidel Castro.  Part of their discussion was the pathetic health care African-Americans and other minorities had to deal with.  Later that year members of the Cuban Health ministry visited the group in New York and announced Castro was creating a program for the population affected to complete their studies in Cuba and the cous de gras was there was absolutely no cost.

Approximately half of the initial scholarships were targeted for African-American students.  The remainder were for Latino and other ethnic minorities who came from underserved communities.

 

The Escuela Latinoamericana de Ciencias Médicas (ELAM) program initially offered 500 scholarships total for US students.  Thus far nearly 200 US students have graduated and nearly 30,000 students from over 100 countries worldwide have benefitted.  IFCO is the organization which identifies and places students in the program.

 

As for those from the United States, they are placed in hospitals all over, including Pomona Valley Medical Center.

 

The first class of 1,498 ELAM doctors graduated on August 20, 2005, with 112 from other Cuban medical schools: 28 other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States were represented by the graduates. The ceremony was led by Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Reportedly attending were Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of Antigua & BarbudaPrime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of DominicaPrime Minister Keith Mitchell of GrenadaPresident Martín Torrijos of PanamaPrime Minister Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts & Nevis and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent & the Grenadinesas well as high-ranking government representatives of The BahamasBarbadosBelize, the Dominican Republic, EcuadorGrenadaGuatemalaGuyanaJamaicaSt. LuciaSuriname and Trinidad & Tobago.

 

The documentary has two more screenings before PAFF ends.  To be informed and see for yourself this remarkable program I would encourage you to attend PAFF or purchase the video.

  • Friday – Feb. 15th 4:30pm
  • Saturday – Feb. 16th 6:30pm

 

Here is the trailer

Dare to Dream: Cuba’s Latin American Medical School from Jennifer Wager on Vimeo.

 

 

Aretha Franklin Kicks Off 27th Annual PAFF


Legendary Gospel and R&B artist Aretha Franklin will kick-off the 27th annual Pan-African Film Festival.  The never seen documentary which featured Franklin’s historic album – “Amazing Grace” will finally hit the big screens.  Through all of the years since the 1972 concert was filmed, due to various reasons it had never been shown.

The filming will be seen tonight at 7:30pm at the Director’s Guild located on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood.  The rest of PAFF’s extraordinary lineup of independent films showcasing producer’s across the diaspora will be seen at the Rave Cinemark theaters in Baldwin Hills at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping complex.

A little nugget of history

Watts is a community in Los Angeles.  It was always known as a place many came to call home following the migration of African-Americans moving from parts of the South.  In 1965, due to feeling abuse, discrimination and the basic lack of upward mobility, some members of the community erupted and the riot which followed became known as the “Watts Riots.”

Through the years which followed the name Watts became synonymous with anything bad or negative.  As Los Angeles continued to grow, African-Americans moved in greater numbers to all parts of the city.  It was not uncommon to see various media reports mention any place where African-Americans lived in Los Angeles described as Watts.  More specifically some reports mentioned any place south of the Santa Monica freeway as being in Watts!

Historically, that is laughable if not insulting to the many who lived in Watts and were proud citizens.  The community of Watts is fairly small.  The north/south boundary is Firestone (Manchester) to the north and Imperial Highway to the south.  The east/west boundary is Central Avenue to the west and Alameda Street to the east.

The reason this tidbit or perspective is mentioned is many who have come to know about the famous concert Mrs. Franklin performed in debuting  Amazing Grace have listed the origin as taking place in Watts.  Unfortunately that is not correct.  New Temple Missionary Baptist Church is at 87th Street and Broadway and was erected in 1966.  That location has never been in Watts as it has always been in what is known as South Central Los Angeles.

 

For more information on PAFF and the 150+ screenings, click HERE

 

Dr. MLK Day 2019 – A reflection


[cover photo - even as the heavy rains started to fall, a few brave souls came to the inaugural opening of the MLK memorial on that historic Saturday, which is known as the unofficial unveiling]

Today millions across the globe joined the United States of America in celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.   As we look back, like many historic events that was not always the case.  In 1983 It took lots of arm-twisting and sophisticated political lobbying to get Ronald Reagan to sign the national holiday into law.   Year after year Dr. King’s prominence keeps growing.

 

The MLK Memorial

There are statues of Dr. King sprinkled across the United States.  It was 2011 when the nation anticipated the unveiling of the MLK memorial adjacent the national mall.  The ceremony was to take place August 28, 2011.  Unfortunately, a hurricane named Irene had other plans.

Once arriving in D.C. checking weather conditions from the Marriott

Despite the looming hurricane which shut down Washington, DC and the eastern seaboard, a few had already made plans to attend the event and took a huge gamble to travel to there despite ominous weather conditions and the subsequent event postponement.

 

Judith and I had followed the creation of the MLK memorial since construction had been announced.  Due to the weather it was decided Judith would remain in Los Angeles and I would venture to D.C. to see if I could get ahead of the hurricane to get a glimpse of the memorial.

 

The controversy

 

Upon arrival the weather was rough as the impending hurricane had not yet hit.  As I made it to the memorial my gamble paid off as even though visitors were scarce, I was lucky to meet the sculpture of the memorial, Master Lei Yixin.   It was great to meet the person who was selected in creating the landmark.

Sculpture master Lei Yixin

As previously mentioned, Judith and I had closely followed the construction of the memorial.  I was happy to hear how the MLK foundation was managing the progress.  Unfortunately, some issues of the construction became serious and to this day I have still not reconciled.  First, Yixin selection as the sculpture was shocking.  No doubt the likes of Ed Dwight who was experienced and had developed a successful inventory of statues of Dr. King was available, folk couldn’t figure out why he or other U.S. artisans were not selected?   It was also uncovered that as a Chinese national Yixen knew very little, if anything about Dr. King.  I was later informed the foundation had to send someone to China to educate him on the work of Dr. King.

Then, the issue with the granite raised eyebrows.  Folk were stunned to find out not only would the granite come from China but that sculpture would be made there and imported to D.C. in sections.  What???  I mean some of the best granite in the U.S. is in Georgia or Connecticut just to name a few states.  Many did not care or perhaps had forgotten that the United States economy was battling the effects of the 2008 financial meltdown.  Folk were dealing with all sorts of economic set-backs, particularly on the employment front.  Thanks to hard-hitting reporting by the Washington Post, with all of the monuments in D.C. and the many craftsman’s and artisans who create such beauty they were available and ready to work.   Sadly, many were shut-out from participating in the project that was right at their doorstep.  That is why  it was a huge surprise to find out some of the workers to finish construction of the memorial were actually imported from China and were housed in a nondescript building in D.C.

Those incidents do not take away from the contribution of China or the sculpture.  Anyway, I digress but consider myself fortunate to not only meet the sculpture but also the President of the Kappa’s who originated the plan, raised the money and developed and other resources for the project to be built.  So, my conflict with the construction was minor compared to the bigger picture of erecting a monument giving homage to a true American hero.

 

Ella Dean, Renie Hale & Justine Love

 

The rains started coming down harder so I needed to retreat to a venue where I could relax and grab a bite to eat.  I headed down to the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl at the “U” and while sitting at the counter munching on a half-smoke I noticed three strangers who seemed to know each other and like me appeared to be in D.C. for the occasion?  That day goes down in history, especially as we celebrate Dr. King.  Judith and I are now known as close family friends to; Ella Dean, who was on assignment and on her way to serve with Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Renie Hale from CBS, who was also on assignment and Justine Love, from a CBS affiliate who was also on assignment.  We all returned to the memorial the next day as the hurricane had given way to glistened sunshine and it was a remarkable sight to witness the emotions of others as they came through the pillars to witness the memorial for themselves.

All of us consider ourselves students of history regarding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Since then, celebrating his birthday and the memorial which gleans his name gives us a better appreciation in celebrating the event.

 

So you want to go to Cuba? – Cuvav2018 – Getting a Haircut


If you’re traveling to Cuba and during your trip you need to get a haircut – it may turn out to be your best bargain!!!

Cubans are known for their grooming standards.   Whether formal or informal there are numerous opportunities to freshen up your hair – assuming all you need is a basic cut?

 

As for a male, I would project 1 – 2 CUCs for your cost.  Of course your tip is whatever you decide to show your gratitude.

The Negro Leagues:Cuba Baseball – A perspective


**SPECIAL REPORT**

1st of a 5-part series


For baseball geeks the Negro Leagues offer an interesting study.  Their cultural significance to American history is well documented, while becoming an institution within the Negro community.  It is interesting to note that in 1885 the first Negro League team was named the Cuban Giants.  They were made up of three amateur teams from Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.  As more teams were organized it was the Jim Crow conditions in the United States that led teams to seek out favorable environments such as Cuba, Mexico and other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America.

 

During my presentations on baseball I often emphasize the game is much more than nine players on each team recording twenty-seven outs or until a victor is declared.  Since the game was created it has morphed into a social phenomenon that unfortunately many misdiagnose as being boring, too difficult to understand or simply too long to record a complete game.  Some of those attributes may be true but there is something to be said as more countries have embraced its international popularity.   No doubt, in the United States Major League Baseball (MLB) is dealing with a correction or a decline in game-day attendance.  Even though critics shun the game or offer reasons for unpopularity, it should not be mistaken to infer the end is near!

 

The Negro Leagues were tremendously successful.  Major League Baseball was also successful but realized following World War II their future was in jeopardy.  The greatness of Jackie Robinson is well documented as the first Negro League player to cross over to Major League Baseball.  What gets lost in this historic moment is Robinson’s transition to MLB was indeed a gamble.  But, MLB realized the gamble was more of an opportunity to energize the game that some thought was not exciting enough to draw the type of attendance needed for success.    They pointed to record crowds at Negro League games as well as a more exciting style of play, versus the benevolent tone of Branch Rickey and the desire to integrate the sport as a primary motivation.

Branding = Success

Interesting through the years baseball came to be known as the national sport of Cuba.  Their teams were fearless as they built a reputation as powerful competitors.  Politics aside, their success helped create mystique about the country they represented.

 

Fulfilling a bucket list goal from several years ago I established an action-plan for a more robust evaluation of the Negro Leagues:Cuban baseball, and the impact.  Thus, this series was born with the mandate to provide better documentation on the topic and to offer a perspective of the Intersectionality.

 

1947

 

In the game of baseball 1947 was a critical year.  Jackie Robinson made history as being the first “Negro” (African-American) to play in Major League Baseball.  Interestingly, it also marked the year that Cuba and Major League Baseball reached an agreement for African-Americans and other players to train in their country.

 

Baseball in Cuba today

The famous statue of Armandito “el tintorero”

Cuba still holds swag when discussing top teams in the game.  Currently they are ranked number five in the World Baseball Federation.  Japan is number one and the United States is number two.  However, even though the rankings are fair, what gets lost in the equation is even though Cuba is the Caribbean’s largest populated country at 11 million, except Taipei, the top three countries have populations of 127 million, 325 million and 510 million respectively. So, from my perspective Cuba does an exceptional job in claiming the number five spot based on population size.  Thus, it is no secret the higher your population the larger your pool of potential talent and from a quick analysis one can conclude Cuba gets a lot of “bang for its buck” regarding leveraging its population.

No doubt players from Cuba are defecting so the agreement is great news.  I mean for that kind of money – EXPLOIT ME!!! I would be willing to take a chance for that kind of opportunity because playing for the national team does not even compare!!  YR

Passion

 

The game is the game!  The goal for most amateur players is to earn their way to MLB.  However, style of play of the Negro Leagues and Cuban team have similar attributes.  The same is true with respect to fan behavior.  There is much more visible passion and fan interaction during the game

 

Criticism

While I am proud to be a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan, I also take pride as a student of the game and its social dynamic.  Baseball is a great game; as long as you understand it.  As mentioned earlier, it can be an excruciating experience for those who lack some of the basic knowledge.  The game has many rules, most noteworthy of “how the game is to be played.”

 

The notion of “how the game is to be played” is a conflict for many players who have finally ascended to MLB status.   In time, most overcome the conflict but for some it’s like trying to walk a tightrope with no pole to hold onto.  The Latin game, the Mexican game and especially the Cuban game is full of non-stop action.  That is especially true for fans.  Player oftentimes stretch their limitations and whether in success or failure, they showcase visible jubilation or frustration.  The MLB game is more tempered and their mantra is players must “respect the game at all times and visible emotions are frowned upon.”   I mean, thank God Yasiel Puig has found a new home with the Cincinnati Reds but during his seven-year stint with the Dodgers he was criticized by more than those who you might think should know better, that he was disrespecting the game with his “antics!!”  In my opinion they are so wrong to marginalize him and other Latin/Caribbean players.  As much as players make efforts to successfully transition, the facts are simple the game is played differently which results in more vested passion from the fans.  I am reminded of how Major League baseball would have reacted when the great Satchel Paige during a Negro League game ordered the seven defenders behind him and the catcher to take a knee leaving what many figured was a team without a defense.  Satchel known for his antics promptly struck out the side of the opposing team, as the defense was not needed.

 

Three games in 2018

 

Part of my trek to Cuba in December 2018 was to meet with baseball officials and ordinary fans of the game.  Luckily my visit coincided with the 58 Cuban National Series, where six teams were set to battle for the ultimate prize. After some juggling of my itinerary I penciled in two tournament games and one amateur softball game that I would be able to attend.

 

 

What a blunder!

1 Pesos = 4 cents

I thought I did my homework so I felt I was well prepared to attend the game at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana featuring Sancti Spiritus versus Industriales.  I knew ticket prices had gone up from three CUCS to five CUCS.  The famed stadium holds about the same as Chavez Ravine home of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  However, unlike Chavez Ravine which holds tens of thousands of cars in its parking lot, Latinoamericano is much different as there are more spaces for motorcycles than cars.  Duh!!!  What do you expect when less than 1% of Cubans own cars.  Thus, the mode of transportation for the majority who attend games is by walking, hitching a ride, the bus, bicycle or for those with resources; a motor bike including a few who actually drove to the game.  What was quite a site being what might be considered a “parking lot” had been transformed to an internet hot spot.  The stadium has the feel of any stadium in the U.S. that is tucked into a community.  It is located in the Cerro community of Havana and the pride and joy of the home team.

So back to getting my ticket.  Unlike many stadiums where there are ticket booths with turnstiles and other entry points, Latinoamericano is a bit different.  Adjacent the exterior of the pavilion section you notice a line that has formed.  There is a large see-through fence as there is a lady (staff) and another person who is behind the fence operating from a table and cash box.  Tickets are assembled in packs and as soon as one is sold it is ripped from the paper using a ruler and presto, that is your ticket for entry.

Luckily my embarrassment was short-lived.  All I was focused on was paying my five CUCs ($5).  It never dawned on me the majority of fans would be locals, thus using local currency (pesos or a value of 24:1 in dollars or CUCs).  As the line moved forward it was finally my turn to purchase my ticket.  I spoke in my gringo Spanish that I would like one ticket and was handing the clerk a $20 CUC.  She looked at me in bewilderment as her eyes suggested WTF!!!!!  What am I supposed to do with that!!!!  At first, I thought she simply didn’t have change but then I quickly realized I had given her 2400 pesos when all she needed was one!   I could feel the noise from those behind me trying to figure out why in the heck was it taking me so long just to get one ticket?  Luckily a quick-thinking fan realized my dilemma and abruptly jumped in and told the clerk he would buy my ticket.  She ripped the tickets from the paper and he give me mine and sheepishly I gathered myself and headed to the ticket taker at the gate.  A lesson learned.

 

Once inside I finally found the person I was meeting.  Anyway, I am so glad I brought bags of double-bubble chewing gun and sunflower seeds.  I tossed them around to fans like I was riding a float during Mardi-Gras.

 

A huge difference

As mentioned earlier, MLB is suffering a decline in attendance.  Even though the Dodgers consistently fill up their stadium that is not the case for the majority of the thirty-teams.  As a matter of fact, the Miami Marlins which is in Little Havana of Miami is grateful to get 20-25k fans per game, and their stadium is relatively new!

 

As I scoured the crowd at Latinoamericano I was pleasantly surprised to witness what looked like about 30k fans in attendance.  What was more impressive was the demographics.  Incredibly the majority appeared in the 20-40 age range but there were also, many youth and a nice cross-section of fans who came to root for their respective team and grab some entertainment.  I thought to myself MLB would pay a fortune to get such a mixture?

 

Attending a game in Havana is much different from Dodger stadium or other MLB venues.  First, while the stadium designs are similar, the majority of what you sit on are concrete slabs.  Near the field of play and tucked in between dugouts are the more traditional seats.  As a matter of fact, the higher you go up in the stadium concrete slabs are replaced with metal slats or something you can sit on.

 

Vendors are a plenty as they roam the aisles selling all types of Cuban snacks.  But, perhaps what was a big seller was the colorful vuvuzelas, which the fans demanded so they could join in the chorus of noise that was nonstop from inning to inning.  The vuvuzelas were merely a complement because tucked near the home team dugout was the twelve-piece plus band blaring drums, horns and other musical instruments.  Along with what the fans had, the “rhythm section” provided the juice so the cheerleader and mascot could provide an evening of entertainment while watching a good baseball game.

 

I think I arrived around the 3rd inning.  Either way, the visiting team; Sancti Spiritus had jumped to a six nothing lead.  Perhaps from the motivation of the cheering section, the Industriales woke up and inning by inning fought their way back to tie the game and eventually take a 7-6 lead.

Fany Sanchez (red sweatshirt) and her twin sister join me for a photo at the Viazul bus terminal in Cienfuegos. We all attended baseball game in Havana on Dec. 12th

I found out about the conclusion of the game the next day as I was on the Viazul bus traveling from Havana to my next city, Cienfuegos.  Luckily the young lady sitting next to me also attended the game with her twin sister and boyfriend.  They stayed until the end of the game and told me of the exciting come from behind victory.  She also mentioned they were on their way to Cienfuegos to spend time with their father during the holidays.  More interesting was she mentioned her love for the game was instilled by her dad so she couldn’t wait to see him, as like me that was her first game in person while being in Cuba and she couldn’t wait to share her experience.

 

 

Cienfuegos

 

The visit to Cienfuegos was important as in addition to visiting the stadium where Yasiel Puig played before defecting to Mexico, I had arranged to meet with a person who claimed to know the family very well.  I was surprised to find a cadeca in what appeared to be in a residential area of Cienfuegos.  Lo and behold my contact was there waiting for me and we chatted for nearly an hour.  He was very happy of the success Puig has generated since being a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Famed Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully proudly nicknamed Yasiel Puig as the “Wild Horse.” Outside of the 5 Septiembre Estadio in Cienfuegos, indeed you will find “Wild Horses” roaming outside of the venue.

After spending the night in Cienfuegos I was set to travel to Trinidad.  Things got a little nervous as the Viazul officer came to the lobby area to announce the bus was running two hours late.  Whoa, this presented a slight wrinkle as my plan of getting into Trinidad before sundown appeared to be in jeopardy.

 

Who said modified fastpitch softball is dead?

 

After arriving in Trinidad I realized my casa particulares was just a couple of blocks from Estadio Rolando Rodriguez.   So, the next morning to my delight a men’s softball game was just starting.  Softball is another dynamic of baseball.  It may look easy, but at a competitive level skill is required to succeed.  The game being played was actually modified fast pitch (the pitcher does not wind up) but offers the ball to the batter at a fast speed, and oftentimes at change of pace, as the batter’s challenge is to adjust the swing to squarely connect with the ball.

 

Santiago de Cuba

 

Along the way to Santiago de Cuba I was able to see estadio’s in Ciego de Avila, Las Tunas and Sancti Spiritus.  As mentioned only six teams were competing in the playoffs.  I had arranged to meet with two baseball locals at the old Bacardi Rum Factory.  Like most Cubans I talk to about baseball, they too were knowledgeable and passionate.  I also was able to make it over to Estadio Guillermon Mocada where the Santiago de Cuba team was practicing.  The stadium was very impressive.

 

One other important interview in Santiago de Cuba included Jose Carmen.  He and his son would be considered die-hard fans, so even though his team was not playing, he invited me to watch a couple of innings of games which were being televised.  Again, very knowledgeable of the finer points of the game.

 

As I made it back to Havana, the third game slated was back at Estadio Latinoamericano.  Holguin would be squaring off against the Industriales.  After my first blunder of not understanding the cost of MY ticket, I came prepared so I purchased 4 tickets with my $10 pesos and gladly handed out the 3 extra tickets to delighted strangers who had been in line to grab their ticket.

 

The amazing thing about attending a game in Cuba or specifically at Estado Latinoamericano is the large crowds and the passion on display.  Luckily, they won the game as from my conversation from the young lady I met on the bus ride to Cienfuegos, I would be treated to something I had never seen!!!  As the game ended the players came out of the dugout to congratulate those on the field, it was cleared and the Lion mascot delighted those like me who stuck around.  He pretended to swing at a pitch and circled the bases and ended in a head first victory slide finishing up near the visitors’ dugout.

 

On a sad note, before entering the stadium I grabbed some water at a store which was directly across the street.  To my surprise, I ran into Sergio Luis Pulido Pozo who prides himself as a knowledgeable fan.  He was drawn to chat as I was wearing my Los Angeles Dodgers cap, so he enthusiastically remarked how proud he was of Yasiel Puig and other Cuban players who were making a positive impact.  He also mentioned his support of the agreement announced several days earlier between MLB and the Cuba Baseball Federation, where Cuban nationals would not have to forego their affiliation with their country.

As the game ended, I headed to a hotspot as I needed to update my wife of my schedule.  It was then, she announced the Dodgers had traded Yasiel Puig and others to the Cincinnati Reds.  She was devastated so I wrapped up and headed back to the store to get Sergio’s reaction.  Unfortunately, it was near 11 o’clock and he had already wrapped up his shift.

 

With the new MLB agreement with Cuba, will their organization go the same way as the Negro Leagues?

 

To be continued…………………………………..

So you want to go to Cuba? Cubav2018 -The Foods of Cuba


I knew this would be an extensive trek so part of my strategy was to make sure I had quality meals as well as getting adequate rest.  I love food!!!!!  All types of food!!!!  So, while I consume in moderation I try to pay attention to balance.  Listed below are some of the foods I had.  Keep in mind to accomplish my itinerary which included visiting many people, cities and communities I put in 55 miles of walking,  35 hours on the Viazul bus plus countless hours in a taxi and local bus.

One critical point, my goal was to stay away from tourist areas so that I could stretch my tight budget and use local currency (cuban pesos).  This is where the casa particulares shine because you are at someone’s home and their food is comparable to what you would find in a restaurant but at a fraction of the cost.  Also, I did a combination of paladars as well as local “street food.”


some of the foods of Cuba