Bread and Circuses

The capital is euphoric after the victory of the Industriales over Villa Clara. Never before have I sense such strong fanaticism, either for baseball or for a team. It’s not about gender nor age, all of Cuba was glued to the playoff season this year. Especially after the brawl between the players and the police in the “José Antonio Strike” sports stadium, in Santi Spiritu province.

The final was exasperating for all those who don’t like baseball, among whom I count myself.  For seven nights the men were at home glued to the TV and shouting. At times angry, at others happy because of a home run. Wherever you went, the topic was baseball: at the bus stop, on the bus, in the streets, heated discussions between neighbors.

What a chance! The team had to win four out of seven games and they had to discuss all of them. How convenient for swelling the State’s coffers. And talk about the work devoted to marketing! Excellent! Sweatshirts, T-shirts, visors, caps and souvenir license plates with the logo and name of the capital’s team. Just imagine! We’re talking about a city of more than a million people.

On car windshields, in the shopping centers, both state and private, the image of a lion eating an orange.  For me it was totally irrelevant, but I was struck by the coincidence of the same drawing in various places. Until my son explained to me that the Industriales are known as The Lions of the West and the Villa Clara team as The Oranges. He even told me that at school they danced a conga to cheer them on to victory.

The fever still hasn’t died down, but Thursday afternoon was horrible.  I was in Vedado and it scared me when I saw a crown of people running in the direction of 23rd and l.  Traffic was paralyzed.  What was going on? I asked, but nobody heard me. Everyone was looking in the same direction, toward Rampa and the Malecon.

I confess, for a few minutes I thought there had been a demonstration, a protest or revolt. Perhaps that was the desire, but no. Thousands of people were gathering there to welcome the Industriales team.

The players went by in a bus, waving. Everyone is mobilized, just for this? Did the newspaper Granma call everyone to come out? I asked. A high school student in her school uniform, who had drawn the team logo on her cheek, sneered at me.

The police couldn’t control the frenzied crows in the middle of the public street.  That wasn’t the worst of it.  The worst thing happened afterward when I went to catch the bus to go home. There was no possible way to get on a public bus. Transport was congested for hours.

I’m not exaggerating, I felt like I was in a movie about Ancient Rome, when the senators calmed the populace with bread and circuses. For more than a week, people in the capital didn’t worry about food. They didn’t say “Good morning,” but started the day with, “Who are you for? How much?” as betting also was a part of the excitement.

Laritza Diversent

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