Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cuban League mottos to live by

Of the mottos used by teams in Cuba's now defunct professional winter baseball league, perhaps none stood out more than that of the Almendares Scorpions:

"El que le gane al Almendares se muere," or "Whoever defeates Almendares dies."

It spoke to the intensity of the competition among the four traditional teams -- Almendares, Habana, Cienfugoes and Marianao -- and particularly between "Eternal Rivals" Almendares and Habana.

That motto was by no means the only colorful one.

The Habana Lions' motto was "La leña roja tarde pero llega," or "The red beating arrives late but is inevitable."

The Cienfuegos Elephants' motto was equally forceful: "El pase del elefante es lento pero aplastante," or "The elephant's pace is slow but crushing."

Only the Marianao Tigers' motto lacked flair: "Ciudad de progreso," apparently borrowing from the city of Marianao's actual motto, "City of Progress."

Unlike the other mottos, it didn't convey Cuba's passion for baseball. Cuba was a country defined by that passion as much as by its language, music, culture and history.

Like New York of the 1950s -- where labels such as Yankee fan, Dodger fan or Giant fan carried as much weight as Irish, Italian or Jewish -- Cuba had it's own ingrained system of identification. You were either Almendarista or Habanista. You rooted either for Cienfuegos or Marianao.

And the team mottos -- for the most part -- spoke to the intensity of the rivalry among those teams.

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