Venezuelan sports ambassadors, Kissinger’s controversial legacy, and more on the weekend.
Aside from its Caribbean coast, Colombia is not a baseball-loving country. but, Bogotá is experiencing a baseball boom driven by the arrival of Venezuelan immigrants. Recently, James Wagner, a Mexico City correspondent for The Times, wrote about that boom. I spoke to him a few days ago to ask him to talk to me about the repercussions of immigration on sports.
Below is our conversation condensed and freed for space.
Elda Cantu: How did you come up with this story?
James Wagner: I started covering this about a year and a half ago, when I was covering Major League Baseball and seeing what was happening with the Venezuelan exodus. Some scouts, or searchlightThey suggested I go see how many Venezuelan kids were developing in sports in South Florida. Then I moved to Mexico, talked to my colleagues and found some data: There are more Venezuelans in Bogotá than in Florida, so it made more sense to focus there. It’s the capital, roughly in the middle of Colombia, where not much baseball is played, and it’s much colder. I found Major League Baseball online. I called and asked if many Venezuelans participated there. “About 90 percent of us are Venezuelans,” one league official told me. I had to go in person to see them play and write that story.
EK: Since Venezuelan immigration is present in many places in Latin America, do you think we can expect the same to happen in other communities where baseball is not played as much?
JW: I recently saw that there was a baseball team representing Chile in a tournament and it was mostly Venezuelan. After Colombia, the country to which most Venezuelans immigrated is Peru. I’m sure if I looked for a league in that country, where not a lot of ball is played, I would find the same phenomenon.
And also in the major leagues in the United States: there are three Venezuelan players but they developed in other countries. Abraham Touro, whose parents went to Quebec and grew up in Canada; Luis Guilorme, who was born in Caracas but grew up in Florida, and Jesús Luzardo, born in Peru to Venezuelan parents and who plays for the Marlins in Miami. I think there will be more players like them and these kids in Bogotá. That’s why I wanted to write about it, because the future will be more like this and I believe they will reach the highest levels in this sport.
EK: In your report, one person told you that he was afraid to speak with a Venezuelan accent on public transportation in Colombia. For example, in Peru there was football tension with Venezuelan fans. Do you think that sport, beyond competition, has the power to unite, and that these tournaments can reduce tensions in receiving communities?
JW: Obviously it’s not a cure-all for the world’s or any country’s problems, but it helps. Sports are a common language between societies. Perhaps Colombians who love baseball will get along better with Venezuelans, because Venezuela has a stadium on every corner. But sport cannot solve the problem if people have nothing to eat and nowhere to live and face growing xenophobia.
EC: In your memoir you speak with Pastor Colmenares, one of the rulers, or to rulefrom the league in Bogotá, who tells you that only his family comes before sports…
JW: He crossed the border on foot with a suitcase, much of it taken up by his refereeing equipment. His son went to Chile, he has a six-year-old granddaughter there and he couldn’t meet her because he needed a visa to visit her. Venezuelans now have families all over the world and may not be able to see each other but are turning to things like sports. Colmenares told me that sometimes he finds motorcycles that accidentally left their keys behind, so he goes knocking on the door and returns them to their owners. He says he is doing this to combat the image his compatriots spread about crime.
EC: You recently moved from the US to Mexico, did you bring any gym equipment with you when you moved?
JW: I like to lift weights, do yoga, and ride a bike. I brought my bike with me. But most of all, as a Nicaraguan-American, I brought a baseball glove and some balls. Last year I competed with the New York Times softball team in the Publishers Softball League, and we won for the first time in five years! I don’t know if it’s me, but I hope to continue playing here. I have to find a league.
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Legacy of the Cold War
Henry Kissinger, the architect of American foreign policy during the most complex years of the postwar era, died on Wednesday. David E. Sanger, who covers the White House and national security and has interviewed Kissinger several times, He wrote in his obituary:
Few diplomats have been as celebrated and reviled as Kissinger. As the most powerful Secretary of State of the post-World War II era, he was hailed as a pragmatic and pragmatic leader who reshaped diplomacy to reflect American interests, and was criticized for neglecting American values, especially in the area of human rights. Considering that this serves the country’s interests.
—Patricia Neto And Sabrina Duke Producing and editing this newsletter.
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