Baseball, Colonial Ironies, and the Boricuas’ National Self-Esteem

On Wednesday night, March 22, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, the Puerto Rican national baseball team faced team USA for the World Baseball Classic championship.Close to 9:00 PM EST, Puerto Rico came to a standstill as millions of Boricuas found their way to TV and computer screens in private houses, bars, or screens set on the streets of barrios and parcelas. Puerto Rico exists beyond the archipelago and throughout the US, and wherever you find Boricuas, the game was on TV. It seemed that all my Boricua friends could talk about that day on Facebook was the final!

For non-Puerto Ricans, itis hard to understand the fervor and fanaticism that takes over Boricuas during events like this one.

Our colonial dilemma has much to with it.

It was a night of colonial ironies. To begin with, team Puerto Rico played home in California against team USA- and it seems that Latinos throughout the US came out to root for the Boricuas.

It gets better. All the players- from both national teams, are U.S. citizens.

Every player in the Puerto Rican team could’ve played for team USA.

A couple players from team USA could’ve played for Puerto Rico. Only a couple because in Puerto Rico we have this clause that besides being a U.S. citizens you must have Puerto Rican ancestry to play for our national teams. In fact, Stroman- the Afro-Diasporican pitcher who silenced the Boricuas’ bats and became the MVP of the tournament, could’ve played for Team Puerto Rico.

Then, the anthems and the flags. Puerto Ricans are used to the ubiquitous presence of the American flag, and, I think, there is no Puerto Rican who is unfamiliar with USA’s national anthem. Moreover, non-Puerto Rican baseball players and fans are used to the Boricuas’ flag and national anthem too.

Finally- Puerto Ricans, from all political persuasions, made common cause to root for team Puerto Rico. The hopes of the Puerto Rican people were placed squarely on beating team USA at Baseball, “America’s pastime.”

It doesn’t get more symbolic and colonial than this. Imagine the Indians and Pakistanis – beating the English at Cricket. The Irish beating the English at Rugby (thanks Mae).

The colonies, mastering the pastime of the metropolitan power (euphemism- cough, cough).

Team USA did not carry the burden team Puerto Rico carried on their shoulders. Sure, they wanted to win and they knew they represented USA. But USA’s national self-esteem was not in play. This game was just another of many competitions in which the US makes it to the finals.

For Puerto Rico, sports and other international competitions (Miss Universe anyone?), have become a way of expressing national pride- and politics. And in every competition- the national self-esteem is in play. It is more than sports, it is cultural reaffirmation, and for many- their only way to show the world who we are.

I know that some may be thinking this is just an extension of “Baile, Botella y Baraja” (Dancing, Drinking and Deck (of cards). It could be part of it- keeping them entertained so they don’t realize how colonized they are. But if you are ever in Puerto Rico or among Puerto Ricans during one of these competitions you will know that it transcends that.

Puerto Ricans actually come together for these events. And for that matter, I have witnessed how Boricuas come together during times of need- be it our own- or others, and it is a beautiful and powerful thing.

Now, I only wish that we did the same to solve our colonial dilemma and that we were as vociferous as we are when we root for our teams.

Until then, Puerto Ricos’s Facebook (Colonial) Relationship tab will continue to read “It is complicated.”

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