Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cuban immigrants in Tampa view Tampa Bay Rays game as bridge to better relations

TAMPA — Standing in his small bar in Ybor City, Orlando Rodriguez Manduley took a break Tuesday from stocking cigars to focus on the television screen.

He watched ESPN as, one by one, members of the Cuban National Team walked onto the field at Estadio Latinoamericano. He was taut with anticipation as he waited for a particular number to flash across the bottom of the screen.

When Yordan Manduley's face appeared, smiling under his red cap and sporting a No. 42 jersey, the bar owner clapped and pointed as the shortstop looked at the camera.

"He's my cousin," Manduley, 51, said through an interpreter. "He's a great player."

As Cuban people packed the stands in Havana to watch their national team take on the Tampa Bay Rays, pockets of Cuban transplants around Tampa huddled around TVs.

For people such as Manduley and his co-workers or the small group of friends that watched at a Cuban market on N Armenia Avenue, the game had a big meaning. A hope, they said, that relations between the United States and the island nation would continue to improve.

Manduley moved to the United States in 2007. Shortly after, he started running his Cuban bar, Ybor Cigars Plus. He's a Havana native. He said his daughter, 27, who is still there, was sitting in the stands.

When the Cuban national anthem started to play before the game started, Yanelys Garcia Hijuelos yelled out every word. Hijuelos, 31, moved to the United States from Cuba in 2005.

While the camera panned the crowd, she happily chatted with Manduley.

"Look at all the Cubans," she said to him in Spanish, before commenting on how much she liked first lady Michelle Obama's dress.

Like Manduley, she viewed the game as a possible bridge to better relations.

"Baseball is like one language," she said through an interpreter.

Manduley had to split his time between the game and customers coming to pick up cigars. But his eyes were on the TV whenever his cousin came up to bat, and he cheered loudly when his relative rapped out two hits.

Ten minutes away in West Tampa, a group of four hung in the back of La Loma Market on N Armenia Avenue. They stood near the deli display and watched the game on a small TV.

Rolando Rodriguez, 57, sat on stacked bags of rice. For 15 years he, like many other Cubans in Tampa, have been going to the market. He gets his coffee there most days, so he knew it's where he'd want to watch the game.

He moved to the United States from Havana in 1980. He got married here and now has four children. He's a baseball fan who usually roots for the Yankees.

He wouldn't comment much on how the Cuban team played Tuesday. (The Rays wound up winning 4-1.) But Rodriguez didn't think the score should matter.

Tuesday was about "two cultures relating to each other" to form a relationship, he said, which there hadn't been for "many years."

He called it "a game of friendship."

Times Now Desk editor Josie Hollingsworth contributed to this story. Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3400. Follow @sara_dinatale.

Cuban immigrants in Tampa view Tampa Bay Rays game as bridge to better relations 03/22/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 5:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs get first new video director in 29 years

    Blogs

    When the Bucs took to the practice field this week to start OTA practices, they did so with a new video director for the first time in 29 years.

    Bucs video director Dave Levy, shown during the 2003 season, worked under nine different head coaches in 29 seasons working for Tampa Bay.
  2. Rays set to activate Tommy Hunter from DL

    Blogs

    The Rays plan to activate RHP Tommy Hunter from the DL for Thursday's series finale against the Angels.

  3. Steven Souza Jr. snaps out of slump as Rays defeat Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — After Tuesday's shutout loss to the Angels, Steven Souza Jr. stood in front of his locker and talked about his need to contribute to the offense.

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jesus Sucre (45) hugs right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) in the dugout after his two run home run in the second inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.
  4. Tom Jones: Rays made right move sending Blake Snell to minors

    The Heater

    tom jones' two cents

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Blake Snell’s struggles on the mound were only one of the reasons the Rays sent him to the minors; some other red flags existed. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    Rookie RHP Ryne Stanek has had his early struggles, but Wednesday he showed his high-octane potential, working around a one-out walk to strike out the mighty Mike Trout (on a 98.4 mph fastball) and legendary Albert Pujols (98.7), both swinging.