Baseball in Cuba is more than a pastime. It’s a national calling. During the Spanish colonial period, picking up a bat and sliding into home because something of a rallying cry of Cuban nationalism.
Beisbol. It isn’t just a U.S. thing.
Turns out, the first baseball began not in the capital Havana, but Matanzas, a 90-minute drive east. Founded in the late 17th century, Matanzas became a center of the slave trade, which led to West African folk traditions like Santería here. Later Matanzas became known as a city of poets. But its biggest legacy is something else.
The first baseball game in Cuba was held in the town in 1874 – the local team were thumped by a visiting American squad. Today the Cocodrilos play regularly from October through May at the Victoria de Girón Stadium, a short walk from the center.
Tickets are cheap, and there’s always space. Barbecue grills are just outside the doors, and a delicious aroma of fresh meats hangs over the 22,000 seats.
Matanzas is best reached by hiring a taxi from Havana. A seaside castle has an interesting exhibit on the area’s slavery history. The Hotel Velazco is an excellent hotel facing central Parque Libertad. For more suggestions on what to do, see Robert’s article for Alaska Airlines.