The Lions of the Capital / Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado

I’m not referring to the bronze lions that guard the Paseo del Prado in Havana, but rather to the team insignia of the Cuban baseball team, the Industriales, who in May won the title of sub-champion of the 51st National Series. The Tigers of Ciego de Avila were the champions. The Industriales, which have won the most championships in Cuban baseball history since 1959, unleashed a rivalry in Cuba comparable only to that which exists in the Major League in the U.S. against the New York Yankees, or perhaps worse. Because the options for recreation here are more limited than in other countries, there’s a great social frustration from 53 years of totalitarianism — that manifests itself with tension among the citizens, encapsulated by militarization — and the enthusiasm for this pastime is so ingrained that an impassioned and divided multitude masses dangerously in the stadiums.

The hubbub of fanatics present in the stadium, the seat of the inhabitants of the capital, transcends the walls and is heard in the distance, since the stadium sometimes teems with 60,000 people. It’s common that the temperature is elevated among the competitors, because Havana is the most cosmopolitan of the Cuban provinces. It doesn’t matter if Santiago de Cuba is playing against the Industriales, or if an aficionado is sitting beside someone from Villa Clara, Cienfuegos or Sancti Spiritus and lives in Havana and wants Santiago to win as well. If he’s from the eastern provinces, he will want it and will reveal it with more earnestness and bombast. They want to crush the city that welcomes all of them.

This country, under a dictatorship for 70 years by Easterners — we can count almost 7 years of Batista (1952-1959), who also was one — favored to a great extent the inhabitants of that region, with a certain partiality and arrogance that with time has been extended to other provinces of Cuba.

In the stadium of the Blue Lions, the Lationamericana, we see how the natives of the interior of the country who reside here and who visit us have been given “permission” to crush those habaneros governed by origins of other demarcations as if we were their colony. The height of the authorities’ complicit passivity and citizen incivility is at the point that they have changed the genre of the athletes of the blue team. They yell “Roar, Lions” when the Industriales are losing, not only when they compete in the interior but also on their own territory. They only need to sing “Pass us the jug” in our own house.

They even sing the song in Ciego de Avila with the same words and transmit it on national television. Up to what point and how far will they go with this sick sentiment? What will happen if the followers of the Lions in the stadium give them an eye for an eye and replicate the insults they receive about our team, the only one attacked right now?

If the baseball fans of the capital pay them back with the same contrary fanaticism and start to jeer their teams with humiliating and profane jokes – the Tigers of Ciego de Avila with the expression, “Meow, Tigers”; the Wasps of Santiago de Cuba with “Buzz, Little Bee;” the Roosters of Sancti Spiritus with “Cluck, Chicken”; or the Sorrels of Granma with “Whinny, Mare”; and so on with the rest of the national conglomerates symbolized by animals — will the authorities then take charge and call for tolerant and respectful sanity and formal education to avoid a massive altercation, something that is always a worry?

Translated by Regina Anavy

June 30 2012